After a very poor start in 2016, air freight demand began growing in the second half, and a strong peak season brought the full-year increase in cargo traffic to 3.2% above 2015 level. Still, 2017 began with everyone nervous about the possibility that, after the strong peak, demand growth would fall back to the lackluster level of the last few years. 8.4% growth in the combined January/February period was reassuring, but some doubt still remained.
However, not only has demand growth not fallen in March, it has accelerated strongly. We published a preliminary report a week ago which indicated that any doubt was misplaced, and today, with results now available from all the major carriers and airports we track, the news is even better.
The updated chart includes recent results published by Cathay Pacific, Turkish Airlines, and Singapore Airlines, with further details on the three carriers below.
Cathay Pacific Airways reported March cargo traffic up 15.4% y-o-y to 1.03 billion RTKs. This is well up from the mid-single-digit gains of the 2016 peak season months and the first two months of this year, and lifts the carrier’s first quarter cargo traffic to 2.65 billion RTKs, up 9.4% over the 1Q16.
Discussing the results, Cathay’s General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing Mark Sutch said: “Our cargo business continued its positive momentum into March. Tonnage grew well ahead of our capacity growth. Asian exports were boosted by a number of new product launches and quarter-end project movements. Transpacific routes and inbound-India routes were particularly strong. Volumes from the Hong Kong market recorded good year-on-year growth. It was also encouraging to see the inbound loads from Europe and North America continue to hold up well. The collective result was a high load factor across the network and improving yields. In March we welcomed Tel Aviv to our network and this took-off to an encouraging start with solid import and export volumes.”
Turkish Airlines reported March cargo volume up a staggering 27.5% y-o-y to 90,000 tonnes. This follows 7.6% and 12.9% growth in January and February, respectively, and pushes Turkish’s first-quarter volume to 224,000 tonnes, up 16.7% over the same three months in 2015.
Singapore Airlines reported March cargo traffic up 5.4% y-o-y to 626 million RTKs. Not the kind of growth seen at Cathay and Turkish, but a return to the solid gains of late 2016 after a slow start to this year. For the first quarter of 2017, SIA’s cargo traffic was up 2.5% to 1.65 billion RTKs.