Preliminary traffic figures for September released on Thursday by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed continued moderate growth in international air passenger numbers while air cargo demand declined to reflect stagnant international trade activity.
The region's airlines carried 29.1 million international passengers in September, an increase of 3 per cent compared to the same month last year.
Measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), demand grew by 3.4 per cent while available seat capacity expanded by 4.4 per cent, leading to a 0.7 percentage point decline in the average international passenger load factor to 78.6 per cent for the month.
Meanwhile, international air cargo traffic in freight tonne kilometres terms (FTK) fell by 6.5 per cent year-on-year in September on the back of continued weakness in external demand. Combined with the marginal 0.3 per cent decline in offered freight capacity, the average international freight load factor dropped by 4 percentage points to 60.4 per cent for the month.
"During the first nine months of the year, Asian airlines in aggregate carried 281 million international passengers, 4.3 per cent more than the same period last year," said AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman.
"The moderation in growth, compared to the higher rates sustained over recent years, reflects an increasingly challenging economic environment," he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, unresolved trade frictions have undermined business confidence and disrupted global supply chains. Asian airlines saw overall demand for air cargo fall by 5.8 per cent during the first nine months of the year, with the outlook remaining subdued in the near term, added Herdman.
"Operating conditions are challenging for Asian carriers which face intense competitive pressures against a backdrop of moderating economic sentiment. Nevertheless, airlines are carefully managing capacity expansion, exercising cost discipline, and streamlining operations in a bid to maintain profitability," he said.