November was cruel to Europe’s Big Three

One of the most famous English-language poems of the twentieth century begins: “April is the cruellest month.” Perhaps that was true in 1922 when T.S. Elliot wrote it, but for two of the big three European carriers – Lufthansa and IAG – April 2015 was far less cruel than November. As for the third member of the group, Air France-KLM, just about every month has been cruel lately, and November was no different.

The three carriers have now released their November performance data, and on the cargo side, it was truly a month they would love to forget.

Lufthansa Cargo reported November traffic down 12.1% y-o-y to 722 million RTKs. For the Lufthansa Group as a whole, November cargo traffic was down 12.0% to 853 million RTKs. Traffic was down on both major trade lanes, with the trans-Atlantic particularly hard hit – down 17.0% to 351 million RTKs – while  traffic to/from the Asia Pacific region was down 5.4% to 403 million RTKs. On the less busy Middle East/Africa lanes traffic was down 20.8% to 67 million RTKs. Regarding the big November decline, the company said it was partly the result of ten days of announced and/or actual strikes: “Freight capacities at Lufthansa Cargo decreased significantly (-6.3%), foremost because of cancelled belly capacities.” While the strikes certainly caused some of the decline, it is hard to believe they could have accounted for all of it. For the first eleven months of 2015, Lufthansa’s Cargo traffic was down 2.8% to 7.72 billion RTKs. For the Lufthansa Group, cargo traffic was down 3.0% to 9.15 billion RTKs.

Air France-KLM continues to report steep falls in cargo traffic, with an 11.3% y-o-y drop in November to 762 million RTKs. While AF-KLM has been reporting dismal cargo results for some time, November was made worse by the terrorist attack in Paris. Commenting on the month, Air France-KLM said: “Cargo activity was primarily impacted by the additional security measures implemented at Paris-CDG airport following the attacks.” For the year through November, AF-KLM’s cargo traffic was down 8.5% to 8.26 billion RTKs.

International Airlines Group reported November cargo traffic down 4.6% y-o-y to 470 million RTKs (adjusted for the recent acquisition of Aer Lingus). Subsidiary carrier Iberia saw cargo traffic up 4.0% to 103 million RTKs, while IAG’s larger British Airways subsidiary reported traffic down 6.6% to 367 million RTKs. For the first eleven months of 2015, IAG Cargo’s traffic was down 4.1% to 4.78 billion RTKs.

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