Asia Pacific airlines saw another month of cargo decline in August as market pressures continued to further weaken demand for air shipments.
The Kuala Lumpur-based Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said Asia Pacific airlines saw international air cargo demand — measured in freight tonne-kilometres (FTK) — decline by 7.9% year-on-year compared to the same month in 2021.
This comes as APAC airlines have already been recording declines in cargo volumes since March after 14 consecutive months of growth. Last July, Asia Pacific airlines saw demand dropped 11.6% year-on-year.
"Demand for exports waned, further dampening air cargo markets," commented Subhas Menon, director general, AAPA.
Demand further weaken, capacity grows
It added that freight capacity offered, however, expanded by 5.2%, with the ongoing recovery in commercial passenger operations adding available bellyhold space in the market.
As a result, this led to a sharp 9.5 percentage point fall in the average international freight load factor to 66.4% in August.
August's cargo performance is in contrast with the recovery seen in passenger numbers in the region for the month.
AAPA noted that August figures showed a "robust recovery" in international air passenger markets as pent-up travel demand continued to drive growth, despite increasingly challenging global economic conditions.
In August, the region’s airlines carried a combined 13.1 million international passengers, compared to just 1.4 million recorded in the same month last year. Overall, this amounted to 39% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
Looking ahead, Menon said challenges remain even as some holdouts in the region have eased pandemic-related restrictions.
Full aviation recovery not until China reopens
"After more than two painful years into the pandemic, the region's carriers are finally beginning to see some relief with the continuing upswing in passenger revenue, even as the cargo business remains weakened. Although cost pressures driven by high jet fuel prices and currency weakness have not abated, the rebound in travel markets will help support an improvement in the regional airline earnings performance," Menon said.
"Amid an increasingly gloomy macroeconomic outlook, the lifting of travel restrictions in the major North Asian markets of Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong will hasten the pace of the industry's return to health, while full recovery is not expected until China is also open. The cooperation of all stakeholders is key to facilitating a smooth recovery in air travel," the AAPA chief added.