APAC Airline Group Sounds Alarm Over Onerous Travel Restrictions

 - October 29, 2020, 10:06 AM
Myanmar Airways International took delivery of its first of three Embraer E190s on lease from CDB Aviation, a wholly owned Irish subsidiary of China Development Bank Financial Leasing.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) on Wednesday reiterated its call for governments to take urgent steps to lift onerous travel restrictions and reestablish global connectivity after the region’s carriers posted predictably dismal passenger and cargo results in September.

According to recently released AAPA traffic data, Asia-Pacific airlines carried a meager 1.1 million international passengers last month, or just 3.6 percent of the 30 million it flew over the same period in 2019. Offered seat capacity was relatively high at 11 percent of the levels operated last year, while internal load factor was a dismal 31.7 percent.

Despite a noticeable improvement in the global manufacturing industry, cargo levels also remained depressed with airlines seeing demand and capacity slip to 17.5 percent and 30 percent year-over-year, respectively.

“Airlines are struggling to survive as international air travel remains severely curtailed by onerous travel restrictions,” said AAPA director general Subhas Menon. “Without recapitalization or fund injections, several of the region's carriers face an existential threat. Thousands of aviation jobs are already lost, with more at risk.”

While he acknowledged that the establishment of green lanes and travel bubbles in the region was “a positive first step,” ongoing travel restrictions and quarantine requirements continue to mark a major blow to an industry already reeling from a dramatic fall in demand from a public wary of traveling during the pandemic. Indeed, the reintroduction of international operations through so-called green lanes and travel corridors have yet to drive significant passenger numbers beyond essential business traffic.

“Their disparate and restrictive requirements make it difficult for these to take off meaningfully. It is critical that governments implement consistent and coordinated measures based on objective risk assessment to help restore confidence in air travel,” Menon said.

Despite ongoing border restrictions and suppressed demand, several Asian operators in the Mekong region are rewriting their growth story, revealing plans to increase domestic and regional connectivity.

This week saw private carrier Myanmar Airways International bump its fleet to five aircraft after taking delivery of its first of three Embraer E190s on lease from CDB Aviation. Cambodia’s new $3.5 billion coastal airport, Dara Sakor International, is on track to open in mid-2021 while construction on two new airports continues to forge ahead. Meanwhile, flag carrier Vietnam Airlines is now operating more than 60 domestic routes with 300 flights per day.