Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], January 29 (ANI): Preliminary traffic results for full calendar year 2020 released on Friday by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) underscored collapse of international airline operations as a result of Covid-19 pandemic.
The 69 million passengers carried by Asia Pacific airlines in 2020 represented only 18 per cent of volumes recorded in 2019, an extent of decline in 12 months not seen in the region's history of commercial aviation.
Offered seat capacity was similarly just 19 per cent of the levels recorded in 2019 while international passenger load factor averaged a lowly 61 per cent.
Asia Pacific airlines account for over a third of global air cargo traffic with strong networks and logistics expertise built up over the years.
During global pandemic, the region's carriers played a vital role in transporting medical supplies including vaccines, personal protective equipment and other essential goods even though capacity was severely restricted as a result of wide-scale grounding of passenger aircraft.
As global economic activity rebounded in latter half of the year, increase in export orders grew with rising demand for speedy delivery of merchandise by air.
In December 2020, air cargo demand improved further in freight tonne kilometres, recording a single-digit year-on-year decline of 6.4 per cent. For the calendar year, international air cargo demand fell by 15.5 per cent while offered freight capacity plunged by 24.4 per cent.
The average international freight load factor rose significantly by 7 percentage points to 66.4 per cent in 2020 with cargo yields offering a welcome boost to operating revenue, although airlines continued to face an existential crisis with commercial passenger operations remaining at a standstill.
"The dismal numbers underline the severity of the impact of the pandemic on the airline industry," said AAPA Director General Subhas Menon.
"The discovery of several effective vaccines towards the end of 2020 provided hope that recovery was on the horizon as large scale vaccinations of people will give governments the confidence to allow travellers from abroad without restrictions," he said in a statement.
Menon said it will take time for the roll-out of vaccinations across the world as well as for pandemic to recede globally. Looking ahead, many industry challenges remain as restrictions on cross border travel will continue to affect air travel demand in 2021.
"We encourage governments to step up coordination efforts on cross border risk mitigation measures and health protocols," he said.
"The implementation of harmonised protocols incorporating the ICAO CART take-off guidance is imperative for the safe resumption of travel. Asia Pacific aviation is ready and willing to play its part in the successful re-start and recovery in the region."