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August 2, 2022

APAC and Middle East air traffic revives after relaxed travel restrictions

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Oman and the UAE, among others, have regained nearly 85% of the Q2 2019 seating capacity.

A new report from Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific (APAC) has revealed that aviation passenger numbers across the region in Q2 2022 improved amid the easing of Covid-19-induced restrictions and successful vaccination campaigns.

The second edition of the ACI Asia-Pacific Industry Outlook unveiled passenger volume growth in various countries, including Cambodia, Singapore, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia, in the quarter.

There has been a notable rise in traffic from February to early July 2022 due to the removal of limitations on cross-border flights.

According to the report, which covered the period between April and June this year, South Asian nations such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India, as well as Middle Eastern countries including Oman, UAE and Iraq, have regained nearly 85% of the Q2 2019 seating capacity.

On the other hand, East Asian countries such as China, Mongolia and North Korea reached only 15% of the 2019 Q2 level in terms of seat capacity because of China’s ‘Zero-Covid’ attitude and extended lockdowns.

The aviation industry has witnessed heightened demand for vacations and holidays, which is set to help the sector recuperate amid inflation and geopolitical tensions.

Despite recording less traffic compared with 2019 levels, most of the airports have started running at full capacity at peak hours, stated the report.

Scheduled domestic seat capacity was 89% of the pre-pandemic standard in Q2 2022 as against the same period of 2019.

However, the seating capacity of overseas flights slumped by 59% due to continued travel restrictions, quarantine and testing rules, especially in China and parts of Japan.

By Q3 2022, domestic seat capacity is projected to surpass 2019 levels. Overall traffic for this year is anticipated to be the same as 2019 levels.

The air cargo market in APAC and the Middle East is expected to record a strong performance amid the revival of the air cargo sector in China and the redirecting of Europe-Asia cargo flights via the Middle East to evade Russian skies.

Emerging East Asian countries recorded the largest share in terms of cargo volume at 32%, followed by developed East Asian nations with a 30% share.

The Middle East shared 16% of cargo volume while Southeast Asia saw 15% of air cargo traffic in Q2 2022.

Although airports have witnessed improvements in various fields, the financial space continued to perform much less compared to pre-pandemic levels, making the sector economically weak.

The airports in the region have recorded quarterly revenues of 60% below 2019, which is similar to 2021 levels.

According to the Industry Outlook, airports in APAC and the Middle East have seen fewer workforce shortages than their European and other counterparts.

This can be attributed to several airports deciding to engage their employees despite challenges and the better pace of air traffic recovery than in other parts of the world.

However, Asia-Pacific is predicted to record the slowest improvement in air traffic this year, achieving only 62% of 2019 levels.

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