Preliminary traffic figures for 2015 released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed growth in both international air passenger and air cargo markets. However, air cargo demand, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK), registered only marginal growth of 1.6% last year, AAPA said in a statement, adding that the modest increase reflected the overall slowdown in global trade.
Offered freight capacity by the AAPA member airlines increased by 3.5%, leading to a deterioration in the average international freight load factor by 1.3% to 63.7% for the year, the statement
Commenting on the results, AAPA Director General, Andrew Herdman noted that, "The region's carriers enjoyed a year of strong growth in international passenger numbers, up 7.9% for 2015, and well ahead of the 4.9% increase recorded the year before. Asian regional travel demand grew solidly, despite slowing economic growth and regional currency weakness.
Air freight suffered from economic slowdown
Less optimistically, air cargo markets saw only marginal growth for the year 2015, a reflection of the slowdown in global trade."
He added that: "Asian airlines benefitted in 2015 from the robust growth in international passenger traffic, and significant fall in oil prices, but competitive market conditions continued to restrain margins. Airline profitability was also affected by currency volatility, and variations in individual fuel hedging policies, amongst other factors."
No real turnaround in sight
Looking ahead, Herdman said: "The outlook for air travel markets in 2016 remains broadly positive, although there are some significant risk factors to consider, including increased uncertainty over the regional economic outlook."
In line with air cargo's marginal growth reported by the region's airlines, Singapore Changi Airport said total cargo throughput was "little changed" at 1.85 million tonnes for the year edging up just 0.5%, despite the fact that there were "pockets of growth in niche segments" such as a 44% increase in pharmaceuticals cargo. The airport operator saw a record 55.4 million passengers in 2015, up 2.5% year on year.
Nol van Fenema