By John Flett
Asian Carriers Hosts Forum As Regional Travel Restrictions Ease
The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA)’s 66th Assembly of Presidents is being held in Bangkok, Thailand this week. After two years of virtual assemblies due to the coronavirus pandemic, the airline leaders of the AAPA member airlines have said they are “cautiously optimistic” about the immediate future of air travel in the region.
For some carriers, their home countries have only recently removed some or all of travel restrictions for international travel. For example, it was only on 11 October that Japan lifted the ‘on-arrival test at the quarantine station, self-quarantine in places such as…own residence or accommodations, and refrained from public transportation.’ Japan still requires either a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate of three doses of vaccines or a certificate of the negative test result of a pre-departure COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure from the original country/region.
Travel restrictions aside the AAPA advised on Thursday that for the first nine months of 2022, Asia Pacific airlines recorded a 500 percent increase in the number of international passengers carried compared to the same period in 2021. The figure of 62 million international passengers carried was on the back of a 125 percent increase in capacity lifting the average load factor to 70 percent. Perhaps illustrating the lack of travel in the region during the same period in 2021 marks an incredible 40 percentage point load factor increase.
Subhas Menon, Director General of the AAPA, stated, “The region’s recovery still lags behind the rest of the world and is expected to reach only 75% of 2019 levels by year-end. Except for mainland China, the gradual reopening of borders in many economies in Asia and strong recovery in air services only underscore the magnitude of pent-up travel demand.”
Ahead of the AAPA Assembly of Presidents, Bloomberg reports Thai Airways’ Chairman of Rehabilitation Plan, Piyasvasti Amranand, stating a few of the challenges that the region and the wider industry still face. The airline is currently under a ‘court-monitored debt restructuring’ after shedding half of its workforce and 40 percent of its aircraft. Acknowledging the challenges airlines are facing in acquiring newer more fuel-efficient aircraft the chairman said: “It’s not all that easy now, the market is changing — to be getting new or second-hand leasing of wide-bodies or narrowbodies.”
As a result, Thai Airways is set to hold onto three Airbus A330s and two Boeing 777-200ERs it had intended to sell. Both aircraft are scheduled to re-enter service in early 2023. According to Bloomberg, the airline had 100 aircraft in its fleet pre-Covid but currently has 61 with plans to add a further 18 into the fleet in the next two years. It is reported that Thai Airways is considering bringing back six A380s in 2024 to add capacity to the network in the absence of newer aircraft.