KUALA LUMPUR – The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has released preliminary traffic figures for the full 2009 calendar year. Overall, in 2009, AAPA member airlines carried 132.9 million international passengers, 5.7-percent fewer than in the previous year. Passenger traffic measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) fell by 6.5 percent, indicating particular weakness in demand on long-haul routes. Available seat capacity was reduced by 6.1 percent, resulting in a marginal drop in the average passenger load factor by 0.4 percentage points to 74.6 percent.
“We have been through downturns before, but none as severe as we’ve experienced in the past two years. As a result of the global recession, demand for passenger travel and air cargo shipments both recorded sharp falls,” Andrew Herdman, AAPA director general, said.
“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 to 25 percent. Airlines responded by cutting capacity and redoubling efforts to reduce costs throughout the business, but were unable to fully offset the effects of sharply lower revenues. Meanwhile oil prices, representing our single biggest cost, fell back from their 2008 peak but remained extremely volatile. Overall, Asia Pacific airlines are expected to report significant losses for 2009, following similar heavy losses suffered in 2008,” he added.
“On a more optimistic note, traffic trends in recent months have shown signs of recovery, in line with the improving global economic outlook led by developing economies in the Asia Pacific region. Passenger demand on short haul leisure routes within the region has already picked up, although business travel demand is recovering more slowly. Asia Pacific airlines remain focused on conserving cash, rebuilding damaged balance sheets, and carefully managing capacity to match demand as they work towards restoring profitability. Whilst 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.