March travel picks up as airlines offer cheap tickets
Air traffic figures for March showed continued growth in international air traffic for Asia Pacific-based carriers, supported by low oil prices and cheaper fares, according to data from the region’s airline trade association.
The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), which includes as one of its members the Philippine Airlines (PAL), released its March results showing a total of 24.4 million international passengers served by regional carriers. The figure was 4.5 percent higher than the same period in 2015.
In revenue passenger kilometer (RPK) terms, international passenger demand registered a corresponding 4.7 percent growth, the airline association said.
However, seat capacity during the period also increased 6.7 percent. This brought down the average international passenger load factor, a measure of seat utilization, by 1.5 percentage points to 77.4 percent for the month.
“During the first quarter of the year, Asia Pacific airlines saw international passenger numbers increase by a solid 7.5 percent to an aggregate total of 72.8 million,” Andrew Herdman, AAPA director general, said in a statement on Friday.
“However, international air cargo demand remained soft, with volumes declining by 6.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago, reflecting the general slowdown in global trade,” he added.
The association noted air freight volumes for Asian airlines registered a decline of 5.3 percent last March despite a pick-up in Chinese exports following the Lunar New Year factory closures.
Freight load factors for the region’s carriers remained under pressure, with the average international freight load factor registering a 5.2 percentage points decline to 62.9 percent, after accounting for a 2.6 percent expansion in offered freight capacity.
The earlier gains mirrored the overall positive outlook local carriers have outlined.
PAL, the country’s flag carrier, earlier said it would carry about 14 million passengers this year, up 16.7 percent, while budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air said it would carry 20 million passengers, up 11 percent year-on-year.
“Overall, the growth in demand for air passenger travel remained quite robust, supported by low oil prices and the widespread availability of affordable airfares,” Herdman said.
“Some concerns remained over the global economic outlook, but the region’s airlines were continuing to invest in new aircraft, and products and services to meet the projected growth in consumer demand,” he added.
The improvement in traffic early this year came after the region’s airlines recorded a growth of 7.9 percent in terms of international passengers in 2015, the association earlier said.
The carriers, which saw an average load factor of 78.4 percent, served 276.3 million passengers during that period.
International air cargo demand, measured in freight ton kilometers (FTK), registered a 1.6 percent increase for 2015, reflecting the slowdown in global trade conditions.
Offered freight capacity increased by 3.5 percent, leading to a deterioration in the average international freight load factor by 1.3 percentage points to 63.7 percent for the year.
“Asian regional travel demand grew solidly, despite slowing economic growth and regional currency weakness. Less optimistically, air cargo markets saw only marginal growth for the year 2015, a reflection of the slowdown in global trade,” Herman said in a previous statement.
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