Passenger numbers rise for Asia-Pacific region's air carriers

Demand for regional travel boosts number of airline seats sold but international cargo tonnage slips

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 5:20am

Carriers in the Asia-Pacific region will fly higher this year as sustained economic growth in the region buoys passenger and cargo demand, the airlines trade body said yesterday.

Some 207 million international passengers were flown by the carriers in the region last year, up 7 per cent year on year, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said.

International passenger traffic, or the total distance travelled by international passengers, increased 5.8 per cent year on year, last year, alongside a 3.9 per cent growth in capacity.

Load factor, or the percentage of seats sold, rose 1.5 percentage points to 77.9 per cent on average.

The AAPA's director-general, Andrew Herdman, said: "Overall, Asian airlines experienced a year of further encouraging growth in international passenger traffic in 2012, bolstered by healthy demand for regional travel."

Herdman said that 2013 would see further growth in passenger traffic.

International cargo demand, however, fell 3.4 per cent last year as global trade waned. Cargo capacity was cut accordingly by 3.2 per cent.

The mainland saw a decline in cargo shipments last year. Mainland carriers moved 5.4 million tonnes, down 2 per cent from 2011, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Cathay Pacific Airways, which carries much of the transshipment cargo from the mainland, saw its cargo tonnage slip 5.3 per cent.

"The global economic recovery is continuing as a result of the sustained growth in Asia and other developing markets," Herdman said.

"Hopefully in the new year we'll see some signs of a long overdue recovery in the air cargo market," he added.

In a separate survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), airline managements were more confident in the cargo and passenger markets for the next 12 months.

IATA has more than 230 members. Seven out of 10 respondents predicted an improvement in passenger traffic while just over half - 55 per cent - said their cargo business would improve.

Collectively, airlines in the Asia-Pacific region flew about a quarter of the global passenger and air freight last year. Some 650 million international and domestic passengers were flown by the region's carriers, of which nearly half came from the Chinese mainland.

Carriers in the region are poised to report US$3 billion in net profit for 2012 and US$3.2 billion this year.

The industry as a whole is expected to post profits of US$6.7 billion for 2012 and US$8.4 billion for 2013, IATA said.