Asia-Pacific airlines worst hit by pneumonia

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2003, 12:00am

Asia-Pacific airlines were the worst affected by Sars last month, according to preliminary figures from the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

The airlines' revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), a measurement equal to one paying passenger flying one kilometre, fell 44.8 per cent year on year.

'The unprecedented combination of crises - the war in Iraq and Sars - has had a disastrous impact on the international air transport industry in an order of magnitude approaching that of September 11 [2001],' Iata chief executive Giovanni Bisignani said.

Asian carriers reduced passenger capacity in response to the drop in traffic. Available seat kilometres fell 12.6 per cent, while the average load factor - the number of seats actually filled - was only 48 per cent, down 28 points on the same period last year.

Global RPK last month dropped 18.5 per cent year on year, while overall capacity was down 6.2 per cent, the first drop this year. The load factor was 63.5 per cent last month.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said that when the epidemic emerged in March, international RPK dropped 10.6 per cent year on year to 35.4 billion.

Passenger numbers fell more than 10 per cent to 8.4 million. The passenger load factor was 65 per cent, down 14.6 percentage points.

Aviation analysts are expecting worse to come this month, as airlines slash more services, but they believe things will start to turn around next month.

Both the Iata and AAPA applauded the World Health Organisation's decision yesterday to lift its travel advisory on Hong Kong.