Preliminary traffic figures from the Association
of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) for the full calendar year 2018 show solid growth in international air
passenger demand, with continued expansion in the global economy
lending support to business and leisure travel markets throughout
the year.

Air cargo demand growth eased after a strong
2017, reflecting slowing export activity amid increasing
uncertainty over international trade policies.

Overall,
the region’s airlines recorded a 7% increase in the number
of international passengers carried to a combined total of 356.6
million in 2018. In revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) terms,
demand increased by 6.9%, reflecting broad-based demand on both
short and long-haul markets. After accounting for a 6% increase
in available seat capacity, the average international passenger
load factor edged 0.6 percentage points higher to 80.6% for the
year.


Korean Air Airbus A330-300 reg: HL8026. Picture taken by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com at Noi Bai International Airport near Hanoi, Vietnam on 19 January 2019. Click to enlarge.

International air cargo demand as measured
in freight tonne kilometres (FTK) grew by 3.9% in 2018, moderating
somewhat compared with the strong 9.6% increase registered in the
previous year. Offered freight capacity for the year grew by 6.6%,
outpacing demand. As a result, the average international freight
load factor for the year 2018 declined by 1.6 percentage points to
63.3%.

Commenting on the results, Mr.
Andrew Herdman,
AAPA Director General said, “International passenger traffic
carried by Asian airlines grew by 7% in 2018, even stronger than
the 6.4% growth achieved in the preceding year. New routes and
frequencies provided more options to travellers, sustaining the
growth in demand. In addition, whilst air fares rose in response
to higher oil prices, ticket prices remained relatively
affordable, capped by stiff competition. Whilst international air cargo
demand recorded an encouraging 3.9% increase for the full year,
growth slowed significantly in the closing months of the year as
business confidence in the global manufacturing sector weakened in
response to trade policy tensions.”

“Overall, in 2018, the
region’s airlines benefitted from robust growth in passenger
traffic and further expansion in cargo demand. Higher average
airfares and record high load factors lifted passenger yields
after several years of declines. Cargo yields also firmed slightly
despite falling load factors. However, cost pressures continued to
increase, with higher fuel expenditure driven by a 30% increase in
jet fuel prices which averaged US$85 per barrel for the year,
despite falling back significantly towards the end of the year.”

Looking ahead, Mr. Herdman said, “Whilst expectations of
continued moderate growth in the global economy should lend
further support to travel markets in the coming months, there are
some downside risks including weakness in trade activity and
potential erosion in business and consumer sentiment. The region’s
airlines are alert to such factors which may affect the market
environment, but remain focused on cost management, and investing
in future growth opportunities.”

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