SINGAPORE — The global aviation industry, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, has seen a positive beginning to the year as travel restrictions have been lifted, allowing for easier air travel.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) expects international travel demand to moderate following the strong recovery observed at the end of 2022, when major markets such as Japan and China reopened their borders. 

Travel sentiment is anticipated to remain strong throughout the year, with capacity and networks returning to pre-pandemic levels.

February's AAPA data revealed a significant year-on-year recovery for airlines, driven by the Lunar New Year holidays and a robust demand for travel. Asia-Pacific carriers transported nearly 16.9 million international passengers, a seven-fold increase compared to the same period last year when travel restrictions were still in place. Capacity increased three-fold year on year, while traffic grew almost six times, resulting in a 38.6 percentage point increase in load factors to 81.3%.

However, the aviation industry faces a manpower shortage as demand for air travel surges, while seat capacity remains limited. This has led to a significant rise in airfares as supply struggles to meet the demand from eager travelers. To alleviate operational strain, Asian airlines are actively recruiting more staff, returning stored aircraft to service, and investing in digitalization of travel processes. Airlines are also collaborating with industry stakeholders to improve passenger experience while ensuring safe and secure travel during the recovery phase.

Although Asia-Pacific international passenger traffic results indicate a positive trend, the AAPA reports that the air cargo market continues to face difficulties. The region's air cargo demand, measured by freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), dropped 9.8% year on year, while capacity increased by 0.8%. Inflationary pressures and worsening economic conditions have negatively impacted spending, which in turn has affected the demand for air shipments. In the first two months of the year, air cargo demand for Asian carriers fell by 15.5%.

As the aviation industry recovers, the focus will be on addressing the challenges of increasing capacity and managing operational issues to meet the strong passenger demand and ensure a sustainable recovery in the Asia-Pacific region.