AS expected, member airlines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) posted steep declines in both cargo and passenger traffic in 2009 mainly due to the effects of the global economic crisis.
Cargo volume slipped 11% to 4.3 million tons from 3.5 million tons in 2008 resulting in an average cargo load factor of 66.1% or almost the same as in 2008. Passenger traffic, on the other hand, dropped 5.7% to 132.9 million.
“We have been through downturns before, but none as severe as we’ve experienced in the past two years,” AAPA director general Andrew Herdman said.
“As a result of the global recession, demand for passenger and air cargo shipments both recorded sharp falls,” Herdman explained, adding that the business impact on airlines was even more dramatic as the collapse in corporate travel and intense price competition in a shrinking market saw airline revenues falling by 20-27%.
“Overall, Asia Pacific airlines are expected to report significant losses for 2009, following similar heavy losses suffered in 2008,” he said.
Herdman noted that while oil prices, which represent the airline industry’s single biggest cost, fell from their 2008 peak they remained extremely volatile.
Still, signs of a recovery are emerging. In the past few months, AAPA members have experienced some activity in line with the improving global economic outlook led by developing economies in the region. Cargo business is regaining some of its dynamism while short-haul passenger demand has already picked up.
Despite these, AAPA member airlines remain cautious.
“While we remain hopeful about future prospects, the outlook for 2010 very much depends on the sustainability of what still appears to be a rather fragile global economic recovery,” Herdman said.