Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], April 29 (ANI): Asia Pacific airlines carried a combined total of only 8.8 million international passengers in March, representing a steep 72.9 per cent decline compared to the same month last year, traffic figures released on Wednesday showed.
Demand in revenue passenger kilometres fell by 70.7 per cent while available seat capacity fell by 55.6 per cent year-on-year, leading to a 27.4 percentage point plunge in the average international passenger load factor to 52.9 per cent in March.
The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said air cargo demand too plummeted as COVID-19 infections spread to many countries across the world. In March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified COVID-19 as a global pandemic.
The number of countries imposing travel restrictions globally more than doubled in March, which led to sharp falls in passenger demand, forcing drastic cutbacks in airline operating schedules and the grounding of thousands of aircraft.
Airlines continued to operate dedicated all-freighter services with some airlines also operating cargo-only passenger aircraft flights, partially compensating for the absence of belly-hold capacity resulting from the mass cancellations of passenger services.
Air cargo demand held up relatively well but was impacted by supply chain disruptions and weakening business and consumer confidence in light of increasing uncertainty and rising unemployment in major economies across the world.
AAPA said the air cargo sector is playing a very active role in the transportation of much-needed medical equipment and supplies to countries around the world.
Asia Pacific airlines saw international air cargo demand as measured in freight tonne kilometres decline by 21.1 per cent year-on-year in March. Offered freight capacity fell by 31.1 per cent, reflecting significant reductions in belly-hold cargo capacity on cancelled passenger services.
As a result, the average international freight load factor was 9.1 percentage points higher at 71.9 per cent for the month.
"The sharp escalation in the number of COVID-19 cases beyond Asia severely impacted travel on international routes in March with many countries effectively sealing off their borders," said AAPA Director General Subhas Menon.
"Overall, Asian carriers saw a 38 per cent decline in the number of international passengers carried to a combined total of 59 million in the first quarter of the year. During the same period, international air cargo demand fell by 10 per cent following declines in new export orders."
Looking ahead, Menon said there is great uncertainty as to how long the global slump will persist. Businesses and consumers are likely to remain risk averse until more is known about the nature and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic spread. (ANI)