International passenger demand in Asia-Pacific showed little sign of improvement as border restrictions and a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 hit traveller confidence across the region.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), which represents major carriers including Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, said only 1.4 million passengers travelled internationally in November, a decline of 95.4 per cent year-on-year. 

With two in three seats flying out empty, cargo in the belly of the aircraft continued to be a silver lining as international trade and manufacturing bounced back. Cargo volumes increased for the third consecutive month, with load factors averaging 69.5 per cent, a jump of 6.7 per cent versus the same time year.

The AAPA said the near-term outlook for carriers remains “extremely challenging” and called on governments to embrace a uniform approach to testing in addition to vaccinations.

Subhas Menon, director general at AAPA, said:

“Whilst the recovery in global economic activity has broadened across sectors, international travel remains crippled by border closures affecting 60 per cent of Asia Pacific destinations. The recent escalation in Covid-19 cases and emergence of variant strains, have resulted in the reimposition of stricter travel restrictions by several states.

“Governments need to move ahead with plans to implement harmonised testing protocols as a part of a multi-layered and risk-based approach towards safely restoring air travel, at the same time as vaccinations are rolled out across the world.”