The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) says that September saw air cargo strength continue, as the trade body also welcomed governments’ efforts to move away from ‘zero Covid’ strategies.

For the month of September, the 40 Asia-Pacific carriers tracked by AAPA saw international FTKs jump 23.3% compared with September 2020. Offered freight capacity grew 14.8%, and the average international freight load factors rise 5.3 percentage point year on year to 76.1%.

Cargo freight LAX

Source: Angel DiBilio/

A Korean Air 747-8F. The carrier has benefited from strong cargo demand

AAPA attributed the improved cargo performance to strong consumer and business sentiment, as well as congestion at shipping ports and supply chain disruptions that prompted businesses to turn to air cargo.

Things remained dismal on the air traffic front, with the region’s airlines flying 1.2 million passengers in September, just 4.1% of the 30 million carried in September 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic. Load factors averaged 33%, with available seat capacity at 13.9% of pre-pandemic levels.

Year-on-year, September air traffic improved, with passengers rising 41.1% from September 2021’s extremely depressed levels.

“The severe weakness in international passenger numbers seen since the onset of the pandemic reflect the border restrictions enforced by governments across the region,” says AAPA director general Subhas Menon.

He lauds governments’ move away from ‘zero-Covid’ strategies and their adoption of risk-based approaches to air travel. He also observes that ticket bookings have increased as barriers have come down.

Still, he feels that much needs to be done.

“For air passenger recovery to gain more substantial momentum, inconsistent health and border measures need to be replaced with harmonised or mutually-recognised protocols that will remove much complexity and confusion for the travelling public,” he says.

“We urge more governments to collaborate across borders in adopting an objective risk-based approach in line with WHO and ICAO guidelines to restore global air travel mobility.”