European cargo on the upswing?

Better than last year, but was there a boost from the timing of the Lunar New Year?
Better than last year, but was there a boost from the timing of the Lunar New Year?

The big three Western European carriers have all reported their January cargo results, and all three show improving performance. However, before you break out the Champagne, remember that neither January nor February data can be considered meaningful on their own. The timing of the Lunar New Year holiday in Asia can cause big shifts in traffic from January to February or vice versa, so, while the news from Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, and IAG is certainly not bad, we will wait to see the February results before drawing any conclusions.

And regarding the Lunar New Year holiday, this year it fell in the second week of February. Whether this will have caused shippers to move extra freight in January remains to be seen. PACTL, the biggest handler at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, said its January handle was up 6.0% over January 2015, to 125,000 tonnes, but it is so far the only one of the big Asian cargo players to report, so we will have to wait for a more complete picture to emerge.

Looking at the big European carriers individually:

The Lufthansa Group reported January traffic down 2.0% y-o-y to 699 million RTKs. However, that small decline hides a huge difference in Lufthansa’s cargo performance on its major trade lanes. Cargo traffic was up 7.1% to 321 million RTKs on the Asia/Pacific trade lane, but this was nowhere near enough to counter an 8.7% drop on the trans-Atlantic lane to 293 million RTKs. On the less busy Middle East/Africa lanes traffic plunged 11.1% to 58 million RTKs. Overall, while a 2% year-over-year decline is nothing to be happy about, it is an improvement over the carrier’ performance through much of last year.

Air France-KLM continues to report declining cargo traffic, but the 6.4% y-o-y decline to 667 million RTKs in January was a better result than AF-KLM reported in any month last year. Air France-KLM did not provide data on cargo performance by trade lane, but did say that its Air France subsidiary saw cargo traffic fall 6.1% y-o-y in January to 272 million RTKs, while KLM (including Martinair) reported cargo traffic down 6.7% to 395 million RTKs.

International Airlines Group reported January cargo traffic up 1.2% y-o-y to 407 million RTKs (adjusted for the recent acquisition of Aer Lingus). Subsidiary carrier Iberia saw cargo traffic up 12.3% to 82 million RTKs, while IAG’s larger British Airways subsidiary reported traffic down 1.2% to 330 million RTKs.

The generally improving trend of the three big carriers is echoed by improving volumes at three of the region’s biggest airports:

Again, not spectacular results, but improved over the 2015 trend of declines.

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