Preliminary traffic figures for the month of January released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed robust growth in international air passenger demand. However, international air cargo markets weakened further, with global new export orders contracting on the back of slowing demand for foreign goods.
Overall, the region’s airlines carried a combined 32.2 million international passengers in January, 8.0 per cent more than the same month last year. Reflecting robust regional and long-haul travel demand, traffic as measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) grew by 8.1 per cent. Available seat capacity expanded by 5.9 per cent, resulting in a 1.7 percentage point increase in the average international passenger load factor to 82.1 per cent for the month.
On the other hand, international air cargo markets continued to soften, with demand in freight tonne kilometre (FTK) terms falling by 3.8 per cent year-on-year in January. Concerns over slower growth in major economies and unresolved trade tensions are affecting air cargo demand. Meanwhile, the expansion in offered freight capacity continued to outpace demand growth, with January’s 2.8 per cent increase in offered freight capacity resulting in a 3.9 percentage point decline in the average international freight load factor to 56.6 per cent for the month.
Commenting on the results, Andrew Herdman, AAPA Director General said, “Against a backdrop of increasing concerns about the global economy, the continued firm growth in passenger traffic was a welcome start to the year for the region’s carriers, which also saw demand sustained by travel ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations in Asia. During the same period, however, expected increases in air cargo shipments were absent, as evidenced in the decline in air cargo volumes.”
Looking ahead, Herdman concluded, “Overall, the travel demand outlook is broadly positive for the coming year. Underlying global economic conditions remain relatively firm, with major economies leaning towards more accommodative policies to support demand. The region’s airlines are closely monitoring developments and potential changes in operating conditions, whilst carefully managing costs with the aim of sustaining profitability.”