Between 2018 and 2019, the contribution of cargo to a combination carrier’s top line decreased almost unanimously as the airfreight market entered cool-down mode after a multi-year growth streak.
With the exception of Qatar Airways, all of the top-ten carriers by cargo revenue contribution saw cargo play a reduced or unchanged role in 2019. With much of the world’s passenger fleet idled for nearly a quarter now, that will undoubtedly change next year. An executive at a large Asian carrier told Cargo Facts that cargo revenue was higher than passenger revenue by a factor of seven for the month of May 2020.
|wdt_ID||Carrier||Region||Cargo revenue contribution 2019||Cargo revenue 2019 ($ million)||Transport revenue 2019 ($ million)|
Even in 2019, combination carriers with the largest cargo contributions derived at least 10% of their overall transport revenue from cargo operations, with Taiwan-based China Airlines leading the pack at 31%. The airline’s active freighter fleet consists of eighteen 747-400Fs, a formidable number especially given a passenger fleet of seventy aircraft, but cargo’s contribution to revenue dropped by 3 percentage points compared with 2018.
South Korea-based Asiana Airlines and Korean Air both saw cargo account for 25% of their transport revenue, 2-3 percentage points lower than 2018. Although Korean’s four 747-400Fs, seven 747-8Fs and twelve 777Fs outnumber Asiana’s freighter fleet of seven 747-400BDSFs, four 747-400Fs and one 767-300F, the scale of its passenger operations is also correspondingly larger.
Cathay Pacific’s cargo revenue contribution fell by 4 percentage points in 2019 to 24%. The acquisition of low-cost carrier HK Express in 2019 could have pushed the passenger revenues up slightly more for Cathay, which has an all-747F fleet but also owns freighter airline Air Hong Kong.
Returning to Qatar Airways, the Doha-based carrier was the only carrier on our list to see cargo revenue increase by a significant measure between 2018 and 2019, with a YoY increase of 14%, to $2.8 billion. Cargo revenue contribution as a percentage of overall transport revenue increased 2 percentage points, to 23%. This is perhaps unsurprising considering the carrier added to its fleet five 777F freighters in 2019.
Although EVA Air recorded the second-lowest cargo revenue and the lowest overall transport revenue among the top ten ranked by cargo contribution, the Taiwan-based carrier’s cargo operations accounted for 20% of revenue generated from transport activities.
Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines were the only other two carriers to see YoY cargo revenue increases of 3% and 2%, respectively. Because of that, their cargo revenue contribution proportions remained stable in 2019, at 18% and 13% respectively.
With the highest cargo revenue, at around $3.1 billion, Emirates remains the largest cargo carrier among combination carriers. But cargo only contributed to 12% of overall transport revenue at the carrier, which returned one off-lease 777F in 2019 and is the largest international passenger airline.
There are, however, other carriers with sizable freighter fleets and significant cargo revenue where cargo’s contribution is less significant. Cargo revenue totaled $2.4 billion and $2.6 billion for Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, respectively, representing 10% and 8% of overall revenue.