Asian airlines face an uncertain start to the year after cargo falls in 2019

By Damian Brett

Asian airlines saw cargo traffic fall last year and face an uncertain start to 2020 as the coronavirus impacts travel.

Figures from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) show that international air cargo demand as measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK) fell by 5.1% in 2019.

Offered freight capacity grew by 1.3%, resulting in a 3.9 percentage point drop in the average international freight load factor to 59.5% for the year.

Andrew Herdman, AAPA director general, said: “Air cargo markets experienced a very challenging 2019, with the 5.1% drop in demand marking the steepest fall since the global financial crisis. Declines in new export orders throughout the course of the year led to lower demand for air shipments.

“Overall, in 2019, Asian airlines faced an intensely competitive operating environment, with downward pressure on yields and profitability, only partially alleviated by the 7.2% fall in global jet fuel prices to an average of $79 per barrel for the year.”

Looking ahead, Herdman outlined the difficulties currently faced by airlines in the region: “The general outlook for 2020 was already clouded by uncertainty over prospects for the global economy and still unresolved trade disputes.

“The recent 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak has now been categorised by the World Health Organization as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The related imposition of travel restrictions and widespread public concern has led to significant falls in demand for air travel on routes to/from and within China, and corresponding adjustments to airline schedules.

“Airlines continue to closely monitor further developments, and are operating in accordance with established standards and practices developed in conjunction with public health authorities regarding outbreaks of communicable diseases.”

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