Demand grows in Hong Kong and Singapore

Singapore Airlines Cargo continued to see solid traffic growth during the first few months of 2018.

When we published our first look at February cargo demand last week there were still a few of the major players to be heard from – Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airlines, and Hong Kong International Airport in Asia; and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in Europe. All four of those laggards have now published their February data, and while Schiphol’s anti-freighter policy has clearly cut into its cargo volume, the news from Hong Kong and Singapore confirms that demand for air freight continues to grow strongly in Asia. We start in Hong Kong…

Cathay Pacific Airways reported February cargo traffic up 8.3 % y-o-y to 827 million RTKs. For the combined January/February period (which eliminates the impact of the timing of Chinese New Year), Cathay’s cargo traffic was up 9.5% to 1.78 billion RTKs. Discussing the results, Cathay’s Director Commercial and Cargo Ronald Lam said: “Our cargo performance continued to be strong with both tonnage and yield achieving positive growth over last year. The positive growth in gross cargo yield was also partly contributed by favorable exchange rates.”

Hong Kong International Airport reported its February cargo handle up 7.0% y-o-y to 315,000 tonnes. For the first two months of 2018, HKIA’s handle was up 8.7% to 725,000 tonnes. In the two-month period, export volume (what HKIA calls “loaded”) was up 11.5% to 460,000 tonnes, while import (“unloaded”) volume rose 4.3%. Discussing the results, the airport said, “the overall growth of cargo throughput for the first two months was mainly attributed to a 12% year-on-year increase in exports. Transshipments also recorded growth of 7%. Among the key trading regions, cargo throughput to and from Europe and North America showed the most significant increases.”

In Singapore, the story was much the same, with Singapore Airlines reporting February cargo traffic up 11.8% y-o-y to 520 million RTKs. For the combined January/February period, SIA Cargo’s traffic was up 7.8% to 1.10 billion RTKs.

However, the news from Amsterdam was not so good. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport reported its February cargo handle up 0.5% y-o-y to 132,000 tonnes. Combined with the 1.6% decline in January, this left Schiphol’s cargo handle down 0.6% for the two-month period to 265,000 tonnes, mainly due to the loss of full-freighter flights related to the recently-imposed slot restrictions at the airport. The number of full-freighter flights in the January/February period in 2018 was 5.5% lower than in 2017 with a reduction of 106 freighter movements.

At right is an updated version of the data so far available from the world’s major cargo carriers, airports, and handlers, for the combined January/February period. As we pointed out last week, while demand continues to strengthen, the increasingly difficult year-over-year comparisons mean we will not see the double-digit percentage increases that were common last year. However, a 5% or 6% y-o-y increase in worldwide traffic for the combined January/February period will definitely keep everyone happy.

Will the trend of strong demand and rising yields continue for the rest of the year? And beyond? To hear what senior executives from all branches of the air freight and express industry see in their crystal balls, join us Cargo Facts Asia, 23-25 April, at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong in Shanghai. For more information, or to register, visit

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