Cargo demand strengthens in March

March 2014 statsMost of the world’s big cargo airlines and airports have now reported their first-quarter results, and, as shown in the chart at right, the news is surprisingly good. The January/February period saw a continuation of the trend of increasing air freight demand that began mid-last year, and that trend is strengthening in March. Look, for example, at Cathay Pacific: Cargo traffic up almost 20%!

Now for the details…

Asia Pacific

Cathay Pacific Airways reported March cargo traffic up 19.3% y-o-y to 908 million RTKs. This follows a flat performance for the combined January/February period, resulting in a 7.3% overall gain for the first quarter of 2014 to 2.21 billion RTKs. Commenting on the March traffic report, Cathay Pacific General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing Mark Sutch said: “After a poor start to the year in January and February, our cargo business benefited from a significant upsurge in traffic last month. There was a strong pick-up in demand out of both Hong Kong and Mainland China and we were able to operate close to a full freighter schedule for much of the month along with a number of extra sectors. There was strong demand to and from the USA and we launched another destination, Columbus, Ohio, during the month. Our recently launched services to Guadalajara and Mexico City also saw healthy loads.”

Hong Kong International Airport reported cargo volume in March up 10.4% y-o-y to 397,000 tonnes. Export volume was up 10.8% over March 2013 to 253,000 tonnes, while import volume was up 9.7%) to 144,000 tonnes. For the first quarter of 2014, HKIA’s handle was up 5.6% to 997,000 tonnes.

Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines reported March cargo traffic up 6.2% y-o-y to 447 million RTKs. International traffic was up 7.4% to 355 million RTKs, while domestic traffic was up 2.1% to 81 million RTKs. For the first quarter of 2014, China Eastern’s cargo traffic was up 3.2% to 1.12 billion RTKs.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminals Co. Ltd (Pactl, the biggest cargo handler at PVG) reported its March handle up a striking 17.4% y-o-y to 111,000 tonnes, continuing the trend of strong growth seen in the first two months. For March, Pactl’s international volume was up 17.8% to 103,000 tonnes, while the much smaller domestic volume rose 11.1% to 8,000 tonnes (most of Shanghai’s domestic cargo moves through nearby Hongqiao Airport). For the first quarter of 2014, Pactl’s handle was up 14.4% to 281,000 tonnes.

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) reported its March handle, adjusted for the loss of Cathay Pacific’s business last year, up 15.3% y‑o‑y to 164,000 tonnes. Without the adjustment, Hactl’s handle would have been down 33.1%) For the first quarter of 2014, Hactl’s adjusted handle was up 11.7% to 405,000 tonnes. (Down 37.1% without the adjustment.)


Europe & Middle East

Lufthansa Cargo reported March traffic up 1.2% y-o-y to 812 million RTKs. For the Lufthansa Group as a whole, March cargo traffic was up 2.1% to 959 million RTKs. Lufthansa reported growth in air freight demand on both the Asia-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade lanes (up 5.3% and 1.4%, respectively),  while traffic on the relatively low-volume Middle East/Africa lane was down 8.1%. For the first quarter of the year, Lufthansa Cargo’s traffic was up 2.3% to 2.06 billion RTKs, while Group cargo traffic rose 2.6% to 2.45 billion RTKs.

Air France-KLM reported March cargo traffic up 2.7% y-o-y to 898 million RTKs. This follows a 3.5% gain in February, reversing a year-long trend of decline. Traffic was up on both major trade lands: Up 3.7% to 373 million RTKs on the trans-Atlantic and up 3.4% to 342 million RTKs on the Asia-Pacific. For the first quarter of 2014, AF-KLM’s cargo traffic was up 1.9% to 2.46 billion RTKs.

International Airlines Group reported March cargo traffic up 2.0% y‑o‑y to 509 million RTKs. Subsidiary carrier BA reported cargo traffic up 2.4% to 425 million RTKs,  while Iberia’s traffic was unchanged from last year at 84 million RTKs. For the first quarter of 2014, IAG’s cargo traffic was up slightly (0.5%) to 1.37 billion RTKs.

Turkish Airlines continues to report exceptionally strong results, with March cargo volume up 22.0% y‑o‑y to 59,000 tonnes. For the first quarter of 2014 Turkish’s cargo volume was up 26.7% to 157,000 tonnes.

Etihad Airways does not regularly publish monthly traffic, but for the first quarter the Abu Dhabi-based carrier reported its cargo volume up 25.6% y-o-y to 128,000 tonnes – a bit down from the 32% increase for the full year 2013, but an extremely strong result nonetheless. And the volume gain did not come at the expense of yield, as Etihad reported cargo revenue for the quarter up 26% to US$ 243 million. Commenting on the quarter, the carrier said the result was boosted by “stellar performances in the India (+32 per cent) and China (+14 per cent) markets, the launch of new routes to Brazil and Vietnam, and heavy demand for charter solutions. Cargo volumes were also strengthened by the launch of a joint freighter service with DHL, serving Pakistan and the GCC markets out of Abu Dhabi.”

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported its March cargo handle up 3.2% y-o-y to 202,000 tonnes (the first time in three years that FRA has handled over 200,000 tonnes in a month). For the first quarter of 2014, FRA’s handle was up 4.0% to 522,000 tonnes.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported its March handle up 4.0% y-o-y to 133,000 tonnes. For the first quarter of this year, LHR’s handle was up 2.8% to 355,000 tonnes.


LATAM Airlines Group reported March cargo traffic down 6.6% y-o-y to 381 million RTKs, as capacity declined 9.2%. Commenting on the decline, the company said: “The cargo traffic decrease was driven by weaker seasonal products from Latin America. The decrease in cargo capacity is a result of a decreased availability in the bellies of passenger aircraft in addition to a reduced freighter operation.” For the first quarter of the year, LATAM’s cargo traffic was down 2.4% to 1.07 billion RTKs.

United Airlines reported March cargo traffic up 7.8% to 324 million RTKs. For the first quarter of 2014, United’s cargo traffic was up 7.1% to 854 million RTKs.

Delta Air Lines reported March cargo traffic down 1.9% y-o-y to 298 million RTKs. For the first quarter of 2014, Delta’s cargo traffic was down 4.8% to 782 million RTKs.

American Airlines (now including US Airways) reported March cargo traffic up 11.2% y-o-y to 312 million RTKs. For the first quarter of 2014, American’s cargo traffic was up 12.1% to 819 million RTKs.


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