Passenger traffic among the major Asian carriers was flat in September, arresting months of steep falls amid signs that confidence was returning to the region as the economies appear to be bottoming out.

International RPKs among the 17 members of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) fell by 0.9% from a year before. This was "a significant improvement compared to the steep monthly declines recorded over the past year," says the association.

Capacity, as measured by ASKs, fell by 6.1%, pushing the average load factor up by 4.1 percentage points to 76.4%.

The international cargo market continued with its slow recovery in September. Freight tonne kilometres (FTK) fell by 6.5% from a year before, the smallest drop in the year. The average international cargo load factor rose by 3.4 percentage points to 68.7% as carriers cut capacity, as measured by available freight tonne kilometres, by 11.2%.

"The September traffic figures offer some encouragement amidst signs of a continuing pickup in consumer confidence and economic activity, led by the Asia Pacific region. Nevertheless, airlines are still facing significant challenges," says Andrew Herdman, director-general of the AAPA.

"Shrinking traffic volumes, coupled with lower yields, led to sharply lower revenues and heavy losses for most carriers. Despite capacity cutbacks, and other cost reduction efforts, airlines are still struggling to restore profitability. Meanwhile, rising oil prices are driving up costs, and will act as a brake on the wider economy. Overall, as things stand now, the recovery still looks quite fragile."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news