Asia Pacific airfreight demand solid in August

By Roger Hailey

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International air cargo markets remained “resilient” for Asia Pacific carriers in August, propelled by ongoing expansion in e-commerce and congestion in major exporting ocean container ports.

Traffic figures from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) indicate that seaport constraints, such as in China, contributed to August’s 26.0% year-on-year growth in freight tonne kilometres (FTK) to 5,980m for international air cargo.

Despite the supportive demand conditions, AAPA reported that “limited bellyhold space resulting from the low number of flights continued to constrain freight capacity, which saw a comparatively slower 17.8% year-on-year increase”.

As a result, the average international freight load factor of 76.0% for the month was close to the historical high achieved in July.

However, severe weakness in international passenger air travel persisted, as governments maintained strict border control measures amid the escalation in COVID-19 cases across the region.

For August, the 1.4m international passengers carried by the region’s airlines was just 4.0% of the 34 m registered in August 2019.

Commenting on the results, AAPA Director General Subhas Menon said: “International travel markets in Asia have been in stasis, whilst gradual recovery has resumed in other regions. Meanwhile, air freight demand continues to drive the region’s airline operations.”

Menon added: “Whilst the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant indicates there is no immediate end in sight to the global pandemic, the acceleration in domestic vaccination roll-outs in a number of Asian economies is a positive step towards the resumption of air travel, as seen in the progressive relaxation of border controls in some countries.

“Indeed, some governments in the region have begun to pave the way with the recent reopening of selected destinations to domestic and international arrivals.”

Menon also called on governments to “refrain from unilateral border measures” that will serve only to hinder the much-needed recovery of air travel and the wider economy.

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