Traffic figures for the month of February released today by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed some moderation of passenger demand growth. Airlines based in the Asia Pacific region carried a combined total of 14.7 million international passengers in February, 3.5% more than in the same month last year. International passenger traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometre (RPK) terms, grew by 2.8%, however available seat capacity grew by 6.9%. This resulted in a three percentage point fall in the average international passenger load factors, which still averaged a healthy 79.0%.
Commenting on the results, Andrew Herdman, AAPA Director General said; “Taken together, in the first two months of this year, Asia Pacific airlines saw 5.8% growth in international passenger numbers compared to the same period last year, underpinned by continuing solid economic growth across the region. International air cargo demand has stabilised following the very sharp rebound last year, but nevertheless Asian airlines recorded further modest growth of 1.7% in international freight traffic for the first two months of the year.”
Herdman added; “Despite the positive start to the year, the outlook for aviation was already clouded by the sharp rise in oil prices that could undermine the global economic recovery.”
Turning to the present situation, events in Japan have also had a major impact on regional travel and tourism flows. Overall, Japan represents 6.5% of worldwide scheduled air traffic and accounts for around a fifth of traffic within the Asia Pacific region. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, airlines responded by quickly restoring normal operations to all of the major Japanese airports, and supporting humanitarian relief efforts to the worst affected areas. Domestic air services in Japan are operating normally, with additional services being mounted to support recovery efforts in affected areas. Short term demand for outbound travel from Japan increased significantly, but has since moderated. At the same time, for understandable reasons, demand for inbound travel to Japan has fallen quite sharply.
Herdman concluded, “Airlines are making appropriate adjustments to their schedules so as to match offered capacity to actual demand as the situation develops. We can expect to see significantly lower demand for travel both to and from Japan in the next couple of months, before consumer confidence is restored and normal travel patterns are re-established, hopefully by the second half of the year.”