As we know, Asia has been faced with tough Covid restrictions. However, now that the restrictions are being lifted Asia is on the rebound. The cost of the pandemic has been high. As we are aware, according to some commentators, such as Willie Walsh, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Hong Kong has fallen off the map as an international aviation hub. It may take a long time for the airport to fully recover from Covid. However, we already know that once restrictions are listed, demand will surge. Singapore Airlines, for example, has blossomed after the pandemic as restrictions were eased there and the airline started to not only recover but also expand by filling in the gaps left by other airlines.

Now, however, according to the website Simple Flying, all of Asia is on the up, with China soon to follow. The Asia-Pacific region was the world’s fastest-growing region for commercial aviation before the pandemic. Now that border restrictions have significantly eased, the region’s international travel is rapidly growing stronger and returning back to its pre-pandemic position. China is, however, lagging behind due to the fact that more restrictions are still in place. However, they are being relaxed with quarantine for international travellers being reduced. This means that China will no doubt be stepping up its flights soon.

Growth in Air Travel

However, for the rest of the region, growth is taking place at a fast rate. Figures released by the AAPA (Association of Asia Pacific Airlines) show international traffic in May was five times higher than the previous month. The AAPA is the trade association for scheduled international airlines based in the Asia-Pacific region based in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. It compiles traffic data from 40 Asia-Pacific-based carriers. These include airlines such as Air India, China Airlines, China Southern, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Asiana, and Japan Airlines.

Cathay Pacific aircraft
| The AAPA compiles traffic data from airlines including Cathay Pacific | © Getty Images

In May of this year, 7.33 million passengers were carried on international scheduled flights (those operating via direct booking from the customer as opposed to charter flights booked by tour operators) in the Asia-Pacific region, compared to only 1.3 million in April. This growth is very encouraging. However, this is still far less than the 30.4 million passengers carried in May 2019 before the pandemic.

Demand For More Flights

As one can see, restrictions are slowly being lifted in Asia. However, it will take time for airlines to pick up as it is taking time for restrictions to be completely lifted. There is clearly an appetite for people to travel. This is why airlines such as Singapore Airlines were able to improve so dramatically in terms of the percentage of seats occupied out of those being offered (passenger load) from the figure that was 14.4% in April 2021 but had improved significantly to 77.4% in April 2022.

Singapore Airlines aircraft taxiing
Singapore Airlines has been capitalising on the surge in demand | © Andrea Ongaro / Travel Radar

However, there is still a long way to go. It is felt that once China, Japan, and South Korea lift their border restrictions, the growth of air travel will increase back to and possibly exceeding pre-pandemic levels. There is clearly a lot of potential for airlines and the aviation industry in what is a very populous area of the world, with a large and growing middle class all ready to fly once restrictions are lifted. However, this remains to be seen. We have to wait to see how this progresses.

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