The head of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA) observes that the region’s air traffic recovery is in full swing, only held back by China’s international capacity and supply chain issues.

At a media roundtable in Singapore, AAPA director general Subhas Menon struck an upbeat tone about the region’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo Haneda Terminal 2 Domestic

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

Terminal 2 of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in March 2023

He observes that China is fully open to international travel following a long closure during the pandemic.

“If you look ahead, it’s all upside,” says Menon. “China has a lot of room to grow. India is also growing substantially. All the [Southeast Asian] markets are completely open and going great guns. Traffic is growing at a very rapid pace.”

That said, air traffic has yet to attain 2019’s levels – something he expects in 2024.

First of all, China has yet to fully recovery. Whereas before the pandemic it represented a quarter of the Asia-Pacific’s international traffic, now it represents just 8%. More positively, Menon observes that China’s domestic market has fully recovered.

“But with China’s reopening I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.

Still, supply chain issues continue to be a major headache for Asia-Pacific airlines. This is slowing down airlines’ efforts to upgrade their fleets with new aircraft. Servicing aircraft has also been slowed down.

“It’s all bogged down,” says Menon. “Things are not happening on schedule because of supply chain issues.”

Another vexing issue in the region is a shortage of labour, particularly since many staff left the air travel sector during the pandemic. “Airlines are really struggling to get people,” says Menon.

Nonetheless, he feels these are temporary issues that “will be resolved sooner or later.”

Longer term, Menon stressed the importance of reducing emissions, and the key role governments and regulators will need to play to ensure a suitable supply of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

He says that sustainability generally and SAF specifically will be key topics at November’s AAPA annual general meeting in Singapore.