Asia-Pacific Remains On Course For Strong Rebound

Ilia Lioutov, ACI Asia-Pacific senior expert in airport economics.
Credit: Ocean Driven Media

About 30% of the world’s passenger traffic growth over the next 20 years will come from just five counties in the Asia-Pacific region, delegates at Routes Asia 2022 in Da Nang, Vietnam, have been told.

Speaking on June 6, ACI Asia-Pacific senior expert in airport economics and ESG Ilia Lioutov said the organization’s latest forecasts show that global traffic will total some 18.9 billion passengers per year by 2040, up from 3.6 billion during 2020.

China will add around 2.5 billion passengers annually, with India’s market increasing by 1.1 billion per annum and Indonesia’s up by 530 million. Japan is also set to add 420 million passengers while Thailand’s market will swell by 340 million passengers annually.

Lioutov explained that the long-term growth trajectory for the region remains strong, despite its slower recovery from the pandemic and recent challenges, such as inflationary pressures and the spike in fuel prices.

In the short-term, Lioutov said that passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific would remain below 2019 levels until 2024 as the region continues to lag the pace of recovery seen elsewhere around the world. Although domestic passenger traffic has climbed with the easing of restrictions, international traffic during the first quarter of 2022 (Q1) remained largely stagnant.

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A report published by ACI and Mott MacDonald found that domestic traffic has made a recovery of 92% of pre-pandemic levels, but international seat capacity was down by 67% during Q1.

Domestic seat capacity is expected to exceed 2019 by 4% in the second quarter of 2022. This is driven largely by Emerging East Asia (China, Mongolia, South Korea), which has 15% more departing seats scheduled in 2022 than in 2019, led by China. Middle East domestic capacity remains below 2019 levels.

In contrast, total international seat capacity in 2022 is 49% below 2019 levels, with significant variation between sub-regions. South Asia and the Middle East are only down about -15% on 2019 levels, Emerging East Asia is still down by 81%.

“In my view, as soon as China reopens, we will see more positives trends. COVID is clearly still affecting some countries, but it looks like Middle East, in the Indian subcontinent, as well as parts of Southeast Asia are removing restrictions and are committed to recovering traffic as soon as is feasibly possible,” Lioutov said.

Lioutov added that the estimated airport revenue loss in the Asia-Pacific region would be about $23.1 billion in 2022, while in the Middle East it would be around $7 billion.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.