May cargo traffic data reported by major Asian combination carriers remains lower for most carriers compared to the pre-pandemic period in May of 2019, mostly as a result of chronic bellyhold capacity availability on long-haul passenger flights, but bright spots continue to emerge.
Month to month between April and May, traffic is improving for many carriers that are adding passenger flights to their networks.
Singapore Airlines reported cargo traffic that was down 18.4% in May 2021 compared to May 2019. However, May 2021’s 467.5 million freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) represented an increase over the previous month’s 448.1 million, due to increased passenger flight volumes.
China Southern Airlines reported slight increases in cargo traffic both month to month and in comparisons with the pre-pandemic period. Month to month, cargo traffic grew 8.3%, while traffic grew 3.1% in May 2021 versus the same month in 2019.
Air China, which reported cargo traffic of 375 million FTKs in May of 2021 — a 25.4% YoY increase — saw a decrease of 11.9% compared to May 2019.
For Taiwan’s EVA Air, May 2021’s cargo traffic was 37% higher than the same month in 2019, at 410 million FTKs, nearly on par with the 411 million FTKs in April 2021.
Fellow Taiwan-based carrier, and one of the world’s largest freighter operators, China Airlines, presented another bright spot, with cargo traffic of 540 million FTKs in May, an increase of 20% from May of 2019. Despite the strong result, traffic decreased from April 2021, likely due to an outbreak among its crews in May. Nevertheless, both EVA Air and China Airlines have consistently demonstrated impressive cargo performance throughout 2020 and 2021.
Despite a 40.6% decrease in FTKs between May of 2019 and May of 2021 — from 940 million to just under 559 million — Cathay Pacific showed strong recovery between April and May of 2021, with traffic increasing 41.9%. This is likely, at least in part, due to the easing of quarantine restrictions for its Hong Kong-based crews.
Earlier this month, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) reported that cargo traffic among its member carriers across the region for April 2021 was slightly above that in April 2019.
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