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Asia Pacific passenger traffic slows, cargo ambiguous

SYDNEY (Centre for Asia Pacifc Aviation) - Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) released traffic results for August 2005 showing a 4.1% year-on-year increase in international passengers numbers to 11.6 million. Passenger traffic (RPKs) increased 5.2% year-on-year, ahead of a 3.9% increase in capacity for AAPA's 17 member airlines, resulting in a healthy load factor of 76.3%.

However, international freight traffic (FTKs) grew by only 1.3% year-on-year, and by 3.5% for the eight months ended 31-Aug-05. AAPA member, Korean Air, the world's largest cargo carrier, reported a soft 1.6% increase in August FTKs.

Freight traffic is considered a leading indicator of the underlying health of the world economy, but the AAPA results are not completely reflective of the developments in Asian economies, as the three major Chinese carriers are not included.

China Southern Airlines, by contrast to the AAPA average, recorded a 26.8% year-on-year increase in international freight traffic in Aug-05, and a growth rate of 6.5% for the first eight months of the year. Similarly, China Eastern Airlines reported a 10.2% growth rate in August, and 14.5% for the first eight months.

The strong results by the Chinese airlines reflect the health of the Chinese economy, while the weaker results emanating from AAPA member airlines could signal a shift in manufacturing capacity away from South Korea, Taiwan and Japan to China.

The conflicting results make it difficult to draw definite conclusions from Asia Pacific freight figures. Adding further to the puzzle is the relative resilience of passenger numbers in the face of fuel surcharges.

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