While the world is gradually emerging from the shadows of the COVID pandemic, there are still some lingering consequences of the disruption it caused in the last two years. One of them is the shifting trends of air traffic and a rejigging of the order within the civil aviation industry. And according to the latest industry reports, Asia-Pacific, which has enjoyed being the top aviation market in the world, could likely lose that crown.

Low traffic

According to the latest forecast by the Airports Council International (ACI), the Asia-Pacific region is not likely to retain its top aviation market tag for long, given the slow growth rate in the region when compared to the rest of the world.

ACI Asia-Pacific believes that by the end of 2022, passenger traffic in the region will only recover by about 55% compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is in stark contrast to other regions where recovery is substantially higher and estimated to be approximately between 70% and 80%.

Airplanes in Beijing, China

The Asia-Pacific region will likely lose its top spot for civil aviation traffic. Photo: Getty Images

It notes that before the pandemic, Asia-Pacific enjoyed an enviable position with 3.38 billion passengers taking to the skies in the region, representing 37% of the global volume of 9.16 billion. But it’s an entirely different story now, with the same market becoming one the slowest in the world to get back on its feet following COVID.

It all depends on China and Japan

Much of the lead enjoyed by Asia-Pacific pre-COVID was because of the robust demand from China and Japan. But China’s tougher border measures and Japan’s cautious approach towards relaxation of inbound travel restrictions have meant that that lead is gradually eroding.

In 2020, the region carried only 1.57 billion passengers, a staggering 53% drop in traffic, but it still contributed 44% to the global traffic of 3.6 billion. In 2021, 1.50 billion people traveled by air in Asia-Pacific, another 4% decline compared to 2020, but it was still the leading region accounting for 33% of 4.6 billion global passengers.

Japan Airlines ANA Getty

Japan and China have traditionally contributed significantly towards aviation in the region. Photo: Getty Images

However, other regions of the world are quickly bouncing back, and the rate of recovery in Asia-Pacific remains low. By the end of 2022, it is estimated to finish second, behind Europe in terms of passenger share and at a comparable level with North America.

Stefano Baronci, Director General of ACI Asia-Pacific, commented,

“The traffic in the region will not be able to fully recover to 2019 levels unless all countries keep their borders open to facilitate freedom of movement. China and Japan – two of the largest contributors to the region’s overall traffic – have been slow in lifting travel and COVID restrictions. We are urging states to take a measured approach to facilitate the recovery in a more sustainable manner and without causing a significant impact on their healthcare system.”

A Cathay Pacific passenger plane arrives at the reopened Changi International Airport Terminal 4 in Singapore on September 13, 2022, following its closure for more than two years due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Cathay Pacific has reduced to a shadow of its former self. Photo: Getty Images

Some progress

Japan’s government has eased restrictions on international air travel in a phased manner, and there are signs that the country is considering lifting daily arrival caps to spur tourism to revive its economy.

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China, too, is gradually bringing back flights to several regions, but the recovery rate continues to leave airlines asking for more. Even Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific expects just 33% of pre-pandemic capacity by 2023.

One can only hope that the region will soon bounce back after the projected dip towards the end of this year.

What are your views on this? Please leave a comment below.

Source: simpleflying.com

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