AirAsia Group Passenger Volumes Double As Region Opens Up 

Credit: Duy Phuong Nguyen / Alamy Stock Photo

SINGAPORE—Air transport in Southeast Asia appears to have turned the corner now that most countries have opened their borders to passengers from abroad.

Capital A, the region’s largest airline group that operates AirAsia airlines, has reported passenger demand measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) for the first quarter (Q1) of 2022 that is 2.6 times higher than last year. 

Passengers carried by AirAsia in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines more than doubled to 3.8 million in Q1, while capacity rose 223% year-on-year (YOY). 

The greatest jump came from AirAsia Malaysia operations, with all operating indicators shooting up nearly five-fold. The Kuala Lumpur-based airline’s load factor was up 20 points to 76%. 

The group’s other AOCs—in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand—saw double-digits improvements, primarily due to the already relaxed domestic travel restrictions, which were not tightened even during the omicron coronavirus variant peak.

AirAsia’s figures are above the Asia-Pacific average. Airlines in the region saw RPK improve 165.4% YOY and average seat kilometers rise 58.2%, according to data from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA). Passenger volumes grew to 3.5 million, still just 10.8% of pre-pandemic levels.

Air cargo was affected by supply chain disruptions and congestion at China’s major ports, as well as international trade sanctions in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After 14 months of consecutive growth, freight ton kilometers declined 1.3%.

Lockdowns in China have canceled out the growth in the region. The Civil Aviation Administration of China reported that March’s passenger volumes were down 67.9% YOY to 15.3 million. China’s aircraft movements halved 55% compared to March 2021.

“Some uncertainty remains, as the pace of reopening continues to vary across the region, with some governments taking a more cautious approach,” AAPA Director General Subhas Menon said. “Major markets such as China and Japan remain largely closed off to international visitors. More broadly, elevated fuel prices and inflation across major economies, as well as the weakening of selected Asian currencies, may also affect the pace and extent of recovery in the region’s travel markets.”

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.