Asia Pacific airlines saw air cargo markets dip slightly in March as congestion at China's major ports, international trade sanctions in relation to the Ukraine-Russia war, and strained global supply chains weighed on growth.
The Kuala Lumpur-based Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said Asia Pacific airlines saw international air cargo demand — measured in freight tonne-kilometers (FTK) — recorded its first monthly year-on-year decline with a 1.3% drop after 14 consecutive months of growth, although AAPA noted that this was mitigated by still strong demand from the major economies.
In February, APAC airlines saw a 0.2% year-on-year cargo growth, with volumes close to 9% above the corresponding month in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
It added that growth in commercial passenger operations helped drive a 5.1% year-on-year expansion in offered freight capacity, resulting in a 4.5 percentage point decline in the average international freight load factor to 70.4% for the month.
Short-term impact cited 
AAPA said these challenging conditions had some "short-term effects" on the region's air cargo markets. 
"After two years of coping with the pandemic, a growing number of Asian governments have begun to treat Covid-19 as endemic, as high vaccination levels are achieved in parallel. The progressive reopening of borders and easing of restrictions, including the removal of quarantines for vaccinated travelers and reduced testing requirements, have positively impacted international travel demand," said Subhas Menon, AAPA Director-General.
"However, some uncertainty remains, as the pace of reopening continues to vary across the region, with some governments taking a more cautious approach."
Menon noted that, for example, major markets such as China and Japan remain largely closed off to international visitors.
More broadly, elevated fuel prices and inflation across major economies, as well as the weakening of selected Asian currencies, may also "affect the pace and extent of recovery" in the region's travel markets.
"While the recent easing of travel restrictions is very much welcome by the industry, incoherent and uneven border control measures across economies continue to confuse travelers and hinder travel recovery. As such, close cooperation among governments and industry partners remains crucial to the restoration of international connectivity," he added.