Preliminary traffic figures from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines show that regional air traffic plunged in February.

Owing to the coronavirus outbreak, regional airlines experienced a 43.9% year-on-year collapse to 17 million passengers during the month. RPKs fell 34.8% and available seats fell 20.6%. Load factors fell 14.4 percentage points to 66.6%.

“Asian airlines saw passenger demand for international air travel demand plunge in February as a result of the rapid spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic,” says outgoing AAPA director general Andrew Herdman.

“Overall, for the first two months of the year, the number of international passengers travelling on Asian airlines fell by 21% to 50 million passengers.”

AAPA noted one relative bright spot, in that demand for air cargo fell just 5%. Offered freight capacity during the month decline 13.5%, however, owing to a shortage of bellyhold capacity. This resulted in February’s average international freight load factors growing 6.5 percentage points to 60.3%.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges, both operational and financial, to the airline industry and the wider travel and tourism sector worldwide,” says Herdman.

“Whilst some governments have moved quickly to provide measures of financial support, much more needs to be done to reduce the risks of permanent damage to critical sectors of the economy.”

The AAPA’s members comprise Air Astana, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways International.