International passenger demand across the Asia-Pacific region climbed higher in April as the progressive relaxation of border restrictions stimulated business and leisure travel.
According to figures released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), the region’s carriers transported 4.8 million international passengers last month—an increase of 272.9% on April 2021. Demand rose to an average of 15.2% of the volumes posted in the equivalent pre-pandemic month of April 2019.
Measured by revenue passenger kilometers (RPK), international passenger demand increased by 302.7% year-on-year, reflecting the strength of longer-haul traffic.
Available seat capacity expanded by 77.5% compared with April 2021. This resulted in a 36.3 percentage point increase in the average international passenger load factor to 64.9% for the month—the highest level achieved since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
“With vaccination rates high in the region, the general easing of border regulations has unleashed pent-up travel demand, as evidenced by the strong growth in international passenger numbers in April and healthy forward booking patterns,” AAPA Director-General Subhas Menon said.
Since the end of April, countries across the region have continued to relax travel restrictions. Vietnam—which will see Routes Asia 2022 arrive in Da Nang next week—dropped COVID-19 test requirements for anyone arriving in the country from May 15, while Japan has confirmed it will begin opening up to more international tourists from June 10.
However, despite the international passenger growth, AAPA said international air cargo demand as measured in international freight tonne kilometers (FTK) fell for the second consecutive month in April, by 8.5% year-on-year.
Offered freight capacity decreased by 3.1% compared to the same month last year, leading to a 4.2 percentage point decline in the average international freight load factor to 70.3% for the month.
Menon said: “Asia-Pacific continues to lag in the recovery of international travel. To build on the current momentum toward a full recovery, it is vital that governments and industry stakeholders collaborate closely with the aim of simplifying border measures and streamlining digital applications to make air travel truly seamless.”
During the 2021 calendar year, the number of international passengers carried by Asia-Pacific airlines totaled 16.7 million, representing just 4.4% of the volumes recorded in 2019 before the pandemic began.