Asia-Pacific Traffic Poised For Quick Return
CHIANG MAI, Thailand—Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region are planning for a strong rebound in traffic during the course of 2023, with a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels predicted by early 2024.
Speaking at Routes Asia 2023 on Feb. 14, Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Director General Subhas Menon said he expects a full recovery within the next 12 months now that China has reopened its borders and international capacity is returning to the market.
“I think Asia is like an elephant—it takes a bit of time to get up and get moving, but once it is you shouldn’t stand in its way,” he said. “I think Asia Pacific I think will come back very quickly. And my guess is that by early 2024, we will be getting back to 2019 levels.”
AAPA figures show that Asia-Pacific airlines carried a combined total of 105.4 million international passengers in 2022, compared to 17.4 million recorded in 2021. In 2019, airlines in the region carried about 375.5 million passengers.
Menon said that China represented about 20% of Asia-Pacific’s international traffic volume before the pandemic, which dropped as low as 2% during the crisis. He added that China’s strict COVID measures have held back the region’s recovery—but pointed out that the country’s reopening offers “huge potential” for growth in the months to come.
Speaking during the same panel session, Pacific Asia Travel Association executive board member Mayur Patel agreed that traffic within the region should be back within nine to 12 months, despite various roadblocks in place, such as labor shortages, high fuel prices and rising inflation rates. However, ACI Asia-Pacific director general Stefano Baronci gave a more cautious view because of such risks.
Baronci highlighted that 2019 traffic is yet to fully return in North America and Europe—which reopened far sooner than Asia-Pacific—and this “is possibly a lesson that we can learn” too, he added.