KUALA LUMPUR, 1 February 2023: Preliminary traffic results for the entire calendar year 2022 released Tuesday by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed robust recovery in international passenger markets after more than two years of prolonged lockdowns and strict border control measures that severely crippled demand.
In 2022, Asia Pacific airlines carried a combined total of 105.4 million international passengers, compared to the 17.4 million passengers recorded in 2021. By December, international passengers climbed to 47.5% of pre-pandemic levels, a significant improvement from the 7.0% recorded in January.
Measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) terms, international passenger demand rose by 439.0% for the year. After accounting for a 144.0% expansion in available seat capacity, the average international passenger load factor jumped 39.9 percentage points higher to an average of 72.8% in 2022.
In contrast to the recovery in passenger markets, international air cargo demand weakened in 2022 and faced multiple challenges. A steep increase in inflation, a strong US dollar and tightening monetary policy across economies led to a slowdown in global economic activity. Pandemic-related lockdowns in China and the Russia-Ukraine war also aggravated prevailing supply chain disruptions.
Against this background, international air cargo demand recorded an 8.2% decline in 2022, following a robust 20.3% annual increase in 2021. Offered freight capacity expanded by 2.2%, as robust recovery in commercial passenger operations led to a gradual increase in available belly-hold space. As a result, the international freight load factor declined by 7.5 percentage points to an average of 66.6% for the year.
AAPA director general Subhas Menon said: “2022 marked the start of a long-awaited recovery in international travel markets as governments across the region eased travel restrictions for the year to welcome back visitors. The release of pent-up travel demand drove a 507% annual increase in the number of passengers carried for the year. However, demand in 2022 averaged just 27% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels, underscoring the significant progress still required towards full recovery.”
“Reflecting falling export orders alongside worsening business and consumer sentiment, international air cargo markets weakened after a relatively steady start to the year. Demand fell by a steep 20.7% year-on-year in December, bringing the decline for the full year 2022 to 8.2%.”
Looking ahead, Menon noted: “The outlook for 2023 is broadly positive, notably for passenger travel. The recovery of passenger demand is expected to progress further in the coming months, driven by a strong appetite for travel. In particular, China’s recent easing of travel restrictions will further fuel demand. However, some governments’ re-imposition of testing requirements for inbound travellers may somewhat slow down recovery in the shorter term. Asian airlines continue to work closely with regulators, airports and other stakeholders to serve the travelling public and deliver a seamless, safe and sustainable experience.”