COVID-19: Asia-Pacific market update (w/e May 3)

Routes' latest update on how airlines and airports across the Asia-Pacific region are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welcome to Routes’ look at how the Asia-Pacific aviation market is responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, helping you understand the schedule changes and manage the impact so we can navigate through this crisis together.

 The data is supplied by OAG using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool unless stated. Please note: the COVID-19 crisis remains fluid as airlines around the world continue to make dramatic capacity cuts. OAG has taken several steps to ensure the data is as accurate as possible. 

Asia-Pacific capacity

The number of departure seats across the Asia-Pacific region increased last week (w/c April 27) for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis began. Capacity totaled 17.7 million seats, a rise of 5% on the previous seven days.

The OAG data shows there was growth in four of the five regions, with North East Asia leading the way in numerical terms. Total capacity in North East Asia increased by 987,227 seats to 12.59 million, a rise of 8.5%.

South East Asia’s capacity grew by 346,657 seats to 3.26 million, while Central Asia’s market added 48,774 seats and Southwest Pacific added 22,639 seats. Only South Asia recorded a capacity decline last week, with the number of departure seats reducing by 27.7% to 1.48 million seats.

China was once again the largest aviation market in the world last week as capacity moved beyond the 9 million mark. There were in excess of 500,000 departure seats last week, a 6% rise on the previous seven days. A total of 8.97 million seats in China’s market were on domestic flights.

South Korea recorded the second largest capacity increase in numerical terms, with the country’s government winning praise for bringing the number of COVID-19 cases under control. The number of departure seats grew by 188,292 last week, a week-on-week rise of 27.9%. Japan’s market also expanded by a similar number of seats, increasing by 185,322 to 2.13 million seats. 

Elsewhere in the region, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has granted permission for 28 airports in the kingdom to resume domestic operations, although only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the Philippines, all incoming international flights have been halted from May 3 to May 10 as a step to tackle the backlog of testing for returning Filipino workers and citizens via repatriation flights. 

Asia-Pacific airlines

China Eastern Airlines overtook China Southern Airlines as the largest provider of capacity in the region. The carrier offered 1.31 million seats last week, up by 13.4% on the previous seven days, while China Southern operated 1.30 million. In numerical terms, Japan’s All Nippon Airways added the largest number of seats, growing by 155,393.

Jetstar Asia this week extended the suspension of services until May 31 in line with the Singapore government’s restrictions. However, limited flights to Manila, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to repatriate citizens and permanent residents, or those with prior written approval for travel, will continue.

Air New Zealand Cargo is entering a partnership with the country’s government to ensure critical cargo transport lines are maintained. The International Airfreight Capacity agreement with the Ministry of Transport will allow exporters and importers the ability to access key markets in a world where available air freight capacity is reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are working to offer connectivity to and from the United Kingdom and Europe, as well as Houston and Chicago via Los Angeles and San Francisco, Hong Kong and Narita gateways,” Air New Zealand general manager cargo Rick Nelson said. 

Qantas has officially placed Project Sunrise on hold, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel. The airline had planned to order Airbus A350-1000 for the ultra-long-haul routes. CEO Alan Joyce said there remains “huge potential” for ultra-long-haul services but admitted that “the time is not right” for Project Sunrise.

The airline has been exploring the launch of nonstop routes from the east coast of Australia to various destinations in Europe and North America for the past three years and hoped to begin services from 2023.

Key updates from Airlineroute:

Korean Air June 2020 International operations as of 0845GMT 07MAY20

Bangkok Airways S20 operations as of 03MAY20

Air China resumes Madrid service in May 2020

Thai Lion Air S20 planned operation as of 03MAY20 

Thai Smile S20 planned operation as of 03MAY20

Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week

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