As Europe grappled with surging passenger demand and ongoing resourcing issues, and the African market witnessed sure-but-steady advancement, Asia displayed a far more conservative response to travel in 2022.
While global travel markets are beginning to see pre-pandemic passenger numbers – albeit in more volatile conditions – Asia is lagging. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, regional traffic within the Asian continent is down 45%.
Many blame the slow recovery on a combination of tight border restrictions, ununified pandemic responses and a cautious passenger outlook. This slow start is another blow to regional carriers, already suffering from 2.5 years of difficulties.
Some regional carriers with larger domestic markets did progress in 2022 as they were less affected by international restrictions. In addition, carriers with external funding or governmental support could weather some of the storm as well as those able to capitalise on the increased cargo rates.
However, 2022 was not a wasted year in the slightest. In contrast to western markets, which desperately attempted to find capacity and staff at any cost, Asian carriers focused on aircraft maintenance and crew resourcing. This focus will likely pay dividends when we reach next year’s busy seasons and European carriers deal with yet more deferred maintenance schedules.
While passenger numbers were down, ACMI providers in Asia faced their own challenges. MRO slots for aircraft that had been parked for over a year were difficult to secure – exacerbated by the fact that many carriers were also utilising the downtime for maintenance. In addition, passenger booking behaviour altered in response to wariness over travel restrictions, with last-minute bookings becoming standard. This shift in behaviour made it difficult for airlines to properly source ACMI capacity in advance of busy periods.
China and Japan historically drive the Asian travel market. While China and Japan both saw diminished passenger numbers in 2022, India steamed ahead towards recovery (measured by the number of scheduled international seats).
Despite a lagging market, long-haul demand outpaced seat capacity, causing higher-than-usual airfares. However, this is likely a temporary blip as many carriers plan to bring additional assets into service next year.
It’s been a tough year for many, but hope is on the horizon as China loosens its zero-covid policy, signalling the start of recovery for the Asian travel market.
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Despite the challenges, ACC has worked with local and regional carriers across Asia, helping to source ACMI capacity where it’s needed most. We’ve also worked closely with ACMI providers, ensuring leasing schedules and asset deployment are as profitable as possible.
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