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Asia-Pacific air traffic plunges 96% on year in Sep on COVID-19 woes: AAPA


International travel demand limited by border restrictions

Air cargo demand slumps 17.5% on year

Singapore — Asia-Pacific air passenger traffic nosedived 96.4% on the year in September, marking a downtrend for the eighth consecutive month, as travel restrictions continued to curb international air travel, latest data released Oct. 28 from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines showed.

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The association noted that the outlook for the aviation sector remained dim, and said that both international passenger and cargo demand were maintaining markedly depressed levels, "with no sign of recovery in sight."

"Airlines are struggling to survive as international air travel remains severely curtailed by onerous travel restrictions. Without recapitalisation or fund injections, several of the region's carriers face an existential threat. Thousands of aviation jobs are already lost, with more at risk," AAPA Director General Subhas Menon said.

Data from AAPA showed that the 1.1 million international passengers that flew on Asia-Pacific airlines in September represented just 3.6% of the 30 million that traveled in the same year-ago period. This came in spite of a higher seat capacity of 11% compared to last year. The average international passenger load factor was 31.7% in the month.

Menon described the establishment of green lanes and travel bubbles among countries in the region as a "positive first step", but said that disparate and restrictive requirements have made it difficult for these initiatives to take off in a meaningful way.

"It is critical that governments implement consistent and coordinated measures based on objective risk assessment to help restore confidence in air travel," Menon added.

Separately, international air cargo demand in September, as measured in freight tonne kilometres, or FTK, registered a 17.5% decline year on year, as some Asian economies remained plagued by weakness in the exports sector.

Freight operations remained active but significant cuts in the number of passenger flights led to a 29.9% year-on-year decline in offered freight capacity. As a result, the average international freight load factor increased by 10.6 percentage points to 70.6% in the month.


Industry sources reiterated that a slow recovery for the aviation sector amid ongoing travel restrictions and strict border controls will continue to weigh on the Asian jet fuel/kerosene market. In addition, curtailed production at regional refineries due to receding margins have worked to limit exports, helping to gradually tighten the supply overhang.

In its latest report released Oct. 27, S&P Global Platts Analytics said it did not see a clear incentive for refiners to raise jet production, given the prospect of weak demand continuing.

"Our outlook calls for a very slow, gradual recovery in air passenger traffic, with jet fuel demand to be the last to recover of all refined products," the report said.

Still, several market participants were optimistic that seasonal restocking ahead of the peak winter period could help to pillar sentiment.

Reflecting the slight uptick, the FOB Singapore jet fuel/kerosene cash differential rose 27 cents/b or 31.4% week on week to minus 59 cents/b to Mean of Platts Singapore jet fuel/kerosene assessment at the Oct. 27 Asian close, S&P Global Platts data showed.

The forward curve also showed similar strength, with the Q1/Q2 2021 spread -- an indication of near-term sentiment -- trending higher at minus $1.55/b at the Oct. 27 Asian close, up 21 cents/b from the previous month, when the spread was at minus $1.76/b on Sept. 28, Platts data showed.