Preliminary traffic figures from the Association
of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) for the month of
February 2019 show encouraging growth in international air
passenger markets, supported by increased leisure travel demand
during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

On the other hand, closure
of businesses during the festive period further aggravated the prevailing weakness in air cargo markets.

The number of
international passengers carried by the region’s airlines climbed
4.4% higher in February, on top of the strong growth recorded
during the same month last year. Demand as measured in revenue
passenger kilometres (RPK) increased by 4.3% year-on-year,
indicating strength in both regional and long haul travel markets.
After accounting for a 4.7% expansion in available seat capacity,
the average international passenger load factor eased by 0.3
percentage points to 80.8% for the month.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 and Boeing 747F at Changi Airport in Singapore. Picture taken by Steven Howard of Click to enlarge.

air cargo markets recorded steep declines in February, as demand
in freight tonne kilometre (FTK) terms saw a double-digit fall of
11.9% compared to the same month last year. Weakness in export
activity was driven by slower demand from major advanced and
emerging market economies, including China. The fall in demand
vis-à-vis the 1.2% contraction in offered freight capacity led to
a significant drop in the average international freight load
factor, by 6.5 percentage points to 53.3% for the month.

Commenting on the results, Mr.
Andrew Herdman,
AAPA Director General said, “Combined figures for the first two
months of the year revealed a firm 6.3% increase in the number of
international passengers carried by the region’s airlines to a
combined total of 62 million. Passenger demand remained relatively
steady, supported by competitive air fares and overall economic
growth. Conversely, air cargo markets experienced challenging conditions.
Declining confidence levels contributed to further falls in new
export orders, adversely affecting demand for air shipments. Taken
together, the first two months of the year saw an 8.3% decline in
air cargo demand for Asian carriers.”

Looking ahead,
Mr. Herdman said, “The slowdown in the manufacturing sector with
the ongoing softening in trade sentiment point to the likelihood
of continued weakness in air cargo markets in the coming months.
Nevertheless, ongoing growth in e-commerce shipments should
provide some level of support to air cargo demand. Stimulatory fiscal policies implemented by selected economies are
expected to encourage domestic spending. This should support
reasonable growth in the global economy this year, sustaining
continued growth in air travel markets. Overall, airlines remain
proactive in responding to changes in demand conditions, and are
exploring new avenues to boost revenue growth whilst managing
costs in the face of challenging operating conditions.”

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