Air cargo the ‘silver lining’ for Asian airlines

By Damian Brett

Credit: Shutterstock

Air cargo was the sliver lining for Asian airlines last year as demand edged ahead of pre-pandemic levels while passenger traffic was decimated.

The latest figures from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) show that last year carriers from the region saw their international cargo traffic increase by 20.1% year on year to 72.3bn freight tonne kms. This compares with a 15.4% year-on-year decline in 2020.

Freight load factors for the year improved by 7.4 percentage points to 74.3%, with freight capacity up by 8.1% to 97.3bn available freight tonne kms.

In contrast, passenger traffic for the year improved by more than 100% but remains at just 4.4% of pre-pandemic levels.

Subhas Menon, AAPA director general, said: “For a second year running international passenger travel remained severely suppressed, as a result of strict border measures imposed throughout the region and elsewhere. It is the worst crisis the region’s airlines have ever faced in terms of duration and depth.”

He added: “The air cargo business segment has been a silver lining for the aviation industry, with strong demand helping to partially mitigate the loss in passenger revenue. In FTK terms, international air cargo demand for the year 2021 has recovered to just above pre-crisis levels.

“Overall, whilst 2021 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years for the region’s airlines, it has also demonstrated the industry’s extraordinary resilience as airlines continue to play a vital role in connecting people and transporting essential goods across the world.”

Looking at December figures, cargo volumes improved by 15.1% on last year to 6.7bn freight tonne kms and load factors were up 0.7 percentage points to 73.5%.

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