Malaysia’s air passenger traffic to rise above 300%, says minister

by NURUL SUHAIDI / Pic by TMR

MALAYSIA 2022’s air passenger traffic may increase between 197% and 347% year-on-year (YoY) according to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

This represents between 32.6 million and 49 million air travel passengers, marking a 30% to 45% recovery from the pre-pandemic air passenger traffic levels in 2019.

Looking at the forecast, Wee said Malaysia pledges to actively continue its mission of enhancing the country’s aviation ecosystem and develop a sustainable, resilient and innovative aviation sector to revive the aviation industry and rebuild connections.

“The air connectivity is the key enabler for our economic growth particularly underpinning the tourism and trade industries,” he said in his opening speech at a panel discussion titled, “Reviving Aviation, Rebuilding Connections” at the Changi Aviation Summit 2022 (CAS 2022) yesterday.

Therefore, he said it is vital for all the industry players to devise coping strategies to adapt to the new normal and coordinate actions taken to stabilise and support the aviation industry.

To facilitate a smooth and full recovery, Wee also recommends that health protocols imposed for air travel must be consistent, simpler and more predictable.

This also includes easing the travel and testing requirements and visa/entry permit requirements for travellers.

He contends that countries which are doing the opposite will only slow down the recovery rate and risk the enormous economic and societal gains out of the restoration of international connectivity.

“Besides that, the passenger processing and waiting times also have increased 100% due to various procedures imposed to check passengers’ health credentials,” he added.

Wee also noted that the lack of manpower hampered the airlines operations and some airlines have already struggled with recruitments, after workers deserted the industry during the pandemic.

During the joint discussion, he also added that the International Air Transport Association has forecasted air passenger numbers to recover as early as 2024, depending on the region.

“Asia Pacific is expected to recover by 2025 while the North America and European regions will recover much faster by 2024,” he said.

Meanwhile, as for the air cargo traffic, this year it is forecasted to grow between 3.9% and 6.7% YoY, which translates into 21.5 billion freight tonne kilometres (FTK) to 22 billion FTK, underpinned by the progress of vaccination programme, strong growth of e-commerce, as well as increased activities in international trade (imports and exports).

Nonetheless, he added the pace of recovery in the civil aviation sector can be expedited further with greater confidence built among governments, industry and air travellers.

Aside from the ongoing efforts, he also mentioned that the recovery of the aviation sector also significantly relies on customers’ changing needs and expectations, especially with regards to ensuring their safety and health throughout their overall travel experience.

Hence, making passengers feel safe and secure is essential if demand for air travel is to rise.

He noted that the implementation of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) initiative by Malaysia with Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand was a part of the efforts to address travellers’ expectations and regain their confidence to travel by air.

Evidently, he revealed that based on statistics as of March 29, 2022, prior to the reopening of Malaysia’s borders, out of a total of 115,646 passengers arriving in Malaysia under the VTL, only 7,923 Covid-19 positive cases, or less than 7%, were detected upon arrival.

To drive the resilience, two key strategies include digitalisation in the overall airport systems such as the traffic management, cargo segment as well as undertaking sustainability efforts.

“We recently participated in the voluntary pilot phase of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40%.

“Not only that, Malaysia recognises the importance of utilising Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in reducing carbon emissions from its operations, as well as meeting the aviation industry global aspirational goals,” he added during the session.

However, with the current market price of SAF at three times more expensive than that of conventional fossil jet fuel, this option is not yet economically feasible to be used by aircraft operators.

More than 45 nations are represented in the CAS 2022 programme, which brings together 300 global aviation leaders, legislators and senior executives.

Joining the programme were Indonesia’s Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, European Commission mobility and transport DG Henrik Hololei, Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong and Airports Co of South Africa Ltd CEO Nompumelelo Z Mpofu.

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