AviationTravellers are taking to the skies once again, and now airport operations are struggling to keep pace with the demand.

Flying is getting its mojo back

Passenger movement at Changi Airport reached nearly 40% of pre-Covid levels in the end of April.
Passenger movement at Changi Airport reached nearly 40% of pre-Covid levels in the end of April. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/Iam Anupong

Airports in Asia Pacific are seeing increased levels of airplane and passenger activities, thanks to the lifting of pandemic entry restrictions as a growing number of destinations reopen their borders.

Overall, impacts from the Ukraine-Russia conflict on air travel demand appear to be limited while Omicron-related effects are confined largely to Asian domestic markets.

The latest March 2022 passenger data from International Air Transport Association (IATA) also paints a picture of continued recovery for air travel across the region.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 197.1% rise in March traffic compared to March 2021, up over the 146.5% gain registered in February 2022 versus February 2021. Meanwhile, capacity rose 70.7% and the load factor was up 24.1 percentage points to 56.6%.

With the exception of China and Japan, major destinations in Asia Pacific including South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Thailand have eased travel restrictions, leading to strong pent-up demand for travel.

The swift comeback in passenger traffic is most apparent at Singapore's Changi Airport. While 1.14 million passengers passed through Changi Airport in March 2022, the first time the one million mark was crossed since borders were closed in 2020, passenger traffic at the airport more than doubled in April from the previous month.

Changi's passenger volume is now nearly 40% of pre-pandemic levels, and is on track to reach 50% of the pre-pandemic levels by this year.

However, airport operations across the world are struggling to keep up with the rapid return of travel demand.

"Unfortunately, we are also seeing long delays at many airports with insufficient resources to handle the growing numbers. This must be addressed urgently to avoid frustrating consumer enthusiasm for air travel," said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Some governments actions also pose challenges to recovery, said Walsh, an issue that is demonstrated most dramatically in the Netherlands, where Schiphol airport has imposed a 37% hike in airport charges over the next three years in the hope of recouping Covid losses.

The Dutch government is also planning to increase passenger taxes by EUR400 million (US$424 million) annually with the stated purpose of discouraging travel.

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