The COVID-19 pandemic continued to weigh heavily on international air passenger and cargo markets in May with the travel and tourism sectors crippled by widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions, preliminary traffic figures released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) show.
In aggregate, the region's airlines carried only 785,000 passengers in May, a 97.5 per cent decline compared to the same month last year. The slump in demand combined with a 92.5 per cent fall in available seat capacity, led to a 50.4 percentage point decline in the average international passenger load factor to just 28.4 per cent for the month.
Meanwhile, air cargo demand as measured in freight tonne-kilometres fell by 19 per cent year-on-year. With offered freight capacity decreasing by 20.1 per cent for the month, the average international freight load factor rose just marginally by 0.9 percentage points to 60.9 per cent, reflecting the capacity crunch experienced in preceding months as a result of the sharp declines in belly-hold space on passenger aircraft.
"The plunge in passenger demand in May and declines in air cargo volumes underscore the immense challenges that airlines are facing," said AAPA Director General Subhas Menon.
"Overall, the region's carriers transported more passengers and cargo compared to the previous month. But the prognosis for the industry as well as tourism and trade remains grim."
Menon said that with recent consumer surveys indicating an increasingly cautious stance on air travel, the return to normalcy will likely proceed slowly, reflecting the uncertainty in the outlook, as governments remain wary about lifting restrictions and continue to impose onerous conditions on travel.
"We are hopeful that governments will act quickly to coordinate measures based on objective risk assessments that safeguard the health and well-being of the travelling public for the recovery of aviation to begin in earnest."
The recently announced Take-off guidance issued by the ICAO Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) provides a comprehensive set of measures which should be adopted consistently across States. CART anticipates that flights will restart in phases, initially between governments where containment of the virus is apace and public health capability adequate.