AAPA traces its origins to an informal meeting of Asian airline executives in 1965, which proposed establishing a forum for regional cooperation. The following year, on 30 September 1966, four Asian airlines namely Philippine Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Airlines and Malaysian Airlines, joined together to form the Orient Airlines Research Bureau. As its name implied, the primary objective was to undertake research studies, surveys, statistical comparisons and other projects, in close collaboration with its member airlines to assist in the development of the regional airline industry.
The grouping soon evolved to become the Orient Airlines Association, and membership grew steadily over the years. In 1967, Japan Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, and Air Vietnam joined the Association, followed by Thai International Airways in 1968, Qantas Airways and Cathay Pacific Airways in 1970. In 1972, Malaysia Airline System and Singapore Airlines went separate ways and became individual members. Royal Brunei Airlines became a member in 1977, while All Nippon Airways and Air New Zealand were added in 1988. During the nineties, EVA Airways, Asiana Airlines and Dragonair completed the current line-up.
In 1996, the Association changed its name to the "Association of Asia Pacific Airlines" to better reflect the geographical spread of its membership.
Today, the AAPA member airlines' standards of service have become a yardstick for the industry worldwide, as Asia Pacific aviation plays an increasingly significant role in the global aviation industry.