More mixed results in September traffic first look

When many of the world’s major airports and carriers released August performance metrics, the air freight industry seemed to be rebounding from the slowdown in cargo earlier this year. Now that September results are in from some of the world’s big carriers, handlers, and airports, however, August’s rebound seems tentative at best, as operators are posting mixed results across all regions. With the approach of peak season, it is likely traffic will be stronger through the remaining months of 2018. However, as industry organizations and analysts have noted when reporting traffic results over the past few months, ongoing trade disputes and protectionist rhetoric – particularly between the United States and China – have introduced uncertainty to an otherwise robust air cargo market.

To look more closely at regional performance for September:

Asia Pacific

Cathay Pacific Airways reported September cargo traffic up 2.3% year-over-year to 1.02 billion RTKs. Year-to-date, Cathay’s cargo traffic was up 6.1% to 8.94 billion RTKs.

Singapore Airlines reported September cargo traffic down 2.9% y-o-y to 595 million RTKs, compared to 612 million RTKs in September last year. From January through September, SIA Cargo’s traffic declined by a narrow margin of 0.1% to 5.22 billion RTKs.

Beijing-based Air China reported September traffic up 2.8% y-o-y, to 685 million RTKs, which also marks a 0.7% decline from August 2018 traffic. Year-to-date, traffic is up 7.1% from the same period in 2017. Most of the growth is in international cargo traffic, which is up 4.1% for September and 8.6% year-to-date. In tonnage, Air China’s handle increased 4.7% y-o-y for September and is up 4.4% year-to-date.

Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines reported a rise in cargo traffic of 8.7% to 672 million RTKs. Through September, traffic increased by 7.6% to 5.5 billion RTKs. Overall cargo and mail tonnage increased 2.9% y-o-y in September to 157,280 tonnes – a 5.3% month-to-month increase.

Taiwan-based China Airlines reported September cargo traffic up 3.5% y-o-y to 513 million RTKs, for a 0.1% increase from August traffic. Year-to-date, China Airlines’ cargo traffic is up 3.6% compared with the same period in 2017 at 4.33 billion RTKs. Cargo yields were up 12.3% from September 2017 and year-to-date.

Taiwan-based EVA Air reported September traffic down 0.3% y-o-y at 305 million FTKs. However, the decline has lessened compared to the past two months, signaling that EVA Air’s traffic may be on the upswing again as peak season approaches. Tonnage increased slightly to just under 54,500 tonnes. Year-to-date through September, EVA’s cargo traffic was up only 0.2% compared to the same period in 2017.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) reported its September cargo handle down 1.4% y-o-y to 431,000 tonnes. Year-to-date, HKG’s handle was up 3.3%. The airport said exports declined the most during the month, with cargo volumes to and from Europe and Japan posting the largest declines.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal Co Ltd (Pactl, the largest cargo handler at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport) reported its September cargo handle down 3.5% y-o-y to 160,300 tonnes. International cargo volumes fell 3.3%. Inbound volumes were 8.8% lower y-o-y in September, while outbound volumes only saw a 1.0% increase. Meanwhile, domestic cargo throughput fell 7.8% y-o-y. Year-to-date, cargo handled by PACTL is still up 4.4% at 1.41 million tonnes.

South Korea-based Incheon Airport’s (ICN’s) cargo handle fell 0.9% y-o-y in September to 254,500 tonnes. Year-to-date volumes are up 1.6% compared to the same period in 2017.

Europe & Middle East

Lufthansa Group reported September traffic down by 1.6% y-o-y, to 923 million RTKs, for the fourth month in a row Lufthansa has reported declining cargo traffic. Year-to-date through September, cargo traffic is up 1.3% to 8.1 billion RTKs.

Air France-KLM reported a 1.5% increase in cargo traffic during September, to 726 million RTKs. Both Air France and KLM contributed to the growth, at 6.6% and 2.4% y-o-y growth, respectively, in September. Year-to-date, cargo traffic is up for the second month since February, at 0.3% growth year-over-year to 6.34 billion RTKs.

International Airlines Group reported a 0.4% y-o-y decline in cargo traffic for September, to 485 million RTKs. Year-to-date, cargo traffic has also declined from 2017 levels, with January through September 2018 coming in at 0.7% under the same period in 2017 for total cargo traffic. Among IAG’s subsidiary carriers, Aer Lingus saw the strongest growth for the month. British Airways, the most significant of IAG’s subsidiaries from a cargo perspective, recorded a 2.6% drop y-o-y in September.

Turkish Airlines extended its long-running, double-digit growth streak in September, when volumes increased 20.0% to about 118,500 tonnes. Year-to-date, the carrier’s volumes are up 24.9% – undoubtedly very strong growth, but still on track to be an overall slower growth year than 2017, when volumes for the full year were up 39.0% compared to 2016.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported a 1.4% drop in its y-o-y cargo handle for September, to 185,000 tonnes. From January through September, FRA’s cargo handle is down 0.8% to 1.64 million tonnes.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) reported a 3.2% decline in its y-o-y cargo handle for September, to 145,500 tonnes. Year-to-date, AMS’s cargo handle is down 2.5% to 1.28 million tonnes, compared to 1.32 million tonnes for the same period in 2017.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported at 1.2 increase y-o-y in its September cargo handle, to 142,000 tonnes. Volumes at the airport are up 1.5% for the first nine months of 2018, compared to the same period in 2017.


Chile-headquartered LATAM Airlines Group’s September traffic grew 2.7% y-o-y to 293 million RTKs – only slightly higher growth than reported for August, which was the slowest growth month the carrier has reported so far in 2018. Through September, cargo traffic is up 6.9% year-to-date.

Delta Air Lines’ September cargo traffic was flat y-o-y at 187 million RTKs. Year-to-date, the carrier’s traffic is up 2.8%.

United Airlines’ cargo traffic fell 1.2% y-o-y in September to 277 million RTKs. Year-to-date, the carrier’s traffic is still up by 4.9% at 2.5 billion RTKs.

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