International air travel plunges 98%, cargo demand falters: AAPA

Air cargo demand was 20.3 percent lower year-on-year as demand for exports continued to falter on the back of economic weakness

Kuala Lumpur: Widespread travel restrictions almost completely suppressed international air travel in Asia during the second quarter of 2020, preliminary June traffic figures released on Tuesday by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed.

Asian airlines carried just 724,000 international passengers in June, a 98 per cent decline compared to the 31.8 million recorded in the same month last year. After accounting for 93 per cent decline in available seat capacity, the average passenger load factor was 36.3 per cent for the month.

Air cargo demand in freight tonne-kilometre terms was 20.3 per cent lower year-on-year as demand for exports continued to falter on the back of economic weakness aggravated by disruptions to global supply chains.

Offered freight capacity fell by 27.2 per cent as most passenger aircraft were grounded, resulting in a 5.6 percentage point increase in the average international freight load factor to 64.9 per cent for the month.

"Overall, Asia Pacific airlines carried a total of 61 million international passengers during the first half of 2020, representing a 68 per cent fall compared to the same period last year," said AAPA Director General Subhas Menon.

"International travel demand evaporated in the second quarter. Most flights were only operating to repatriate people to their home countries. Meanwhile, air cargo demand declined by 16 per cent during the first half of the year, reflecting the general deterioration in consumer and business confidence."

Menon said the industry is in a perilous condition. International flights continue to be grounded by border closures and onerous quarantine requirements even when domestic lockdowns are being eased.

"Airlines in the Asia Pacific region are rapidly depleting cash reserves and incurring massive losses," said Menon.

"It is critical for governments to recognise the debilitating impact of current policies and work cooperatively to re-establish global connectivity while maintaining appropriate measures to safeguard public health in line with guidance published by the International Civil Aviation Organisation."

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