KUALA LUMPUR, 1 February 2021: The Covid-19 pandemic decimated international airline travel in 2020, but air cargo represents a silver lining that could play a vital role in recovery, according to traffic results for 2020 released at the weekend by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA).
The 69 million passengers carried by Asia Pacific airlines in the year 2020 represented only 18% of volumes recorded in 2019, a decline not seen in the history of commercial aviation. Offered seat capacity collapses delivering 19% of capacity recorded in 2019, while the international passenger load factor averaged a low 61%.
During the global pandemic, the region’s carriers have played a vital role in transporting medical supplies including vaccines, personal protective equipment and other essential goods, even though capacity was severely restricted as a result of the wide-scale grounding of passenger aircraft.
As global economic activity rebounded in the latter half of the year, the increase in export orders grew with the rising demand for the speedy delivery of merchandise by air.
In December 2020, air cargo demand improved further in freight tonne-kilometres (FTK), recording a single-digit year-on-year decline of 6.4%. For the calendar year, international air cargo demand fell by 15.5%, whilst offered freight capacity plunged by 24.4%. The average global freight load factor rose significantly, by 7% points to 66.4% in 2020, with cargo yields offering a welcome boost to operating revenue, although airlines continued to face an existential crisis with commercial passenger operations remaining at a standstill.
Commenting on the results, AAPA director general, Subhas Menon said: “The dismal numbers underline the severity of the impact of the pandemic on the airline industry. The discovery of several effective vaccines towards the end of 2020 provided hope that recovery was on the horizon as large scale vaccinations of their people, will give governments the confidence to allow travellers from abroad without restrictions’’.
Menon added, “It will take time for the rollout of vaccinations across the world, as well as for the pandemic to recede globally. As the industry looks ahead, challenges remain as cross-border travel restrictions will continue to affect air travel demand in 2021. We encourage governments to step up coordination efforts on cross border risk mitigation measures and health protocols. The implementation of harmonised protocols, incorporating the ICAO CART Take-Off Guidance, is imperative for the safe resumption of travel. Asia Pacific aviation is ready and willing to play its part in the successful restart and recovery in the region.”