Peak season offers only modest air freight boost in November first look

Hopes last month for a rebound in peak season may have dimmed, as October’s decline in year-over-year air cargo traffic seems to have extended into November. Outliers to this trend include, again, Turkish Airlines, Air China, and China Southern Airlines. Most carriers and airports, however, do show continued positive year-to-date traffic compared to the same period in the year prior. In all regions, most operators reported a year-over-year dip in cargo traffic for the month. Although some airports and carriers maintain that they have yet to see major impacts from ongoing trade disputes, the growing uncertainty stemming from these issues, paired with the upcoming Brexit event, are perhaps beginning to affect what might otherwise be a traditionally strong peak season.

To look more closely at regional performance for November:

Asia Pacific

Cathay Pacific Airways reported November cargo traffic down 1.1% y-o-y to 1.06 billion RTKs. Year-to-date, Cathay’s cargo traffic was up 5.3% to 11.08 billion RTKs.

Singapore Airlines reported November cargo traffic down 3.0% y-o-y to 651 million RTKs, compared to 671 million RTKs in November last year. From January through November, SIA Cargo’s traffic declined by a narrow margin of 0.4% to 6.5 billion RTKs.

Beijing-based Air China reported November traffic up 2.1% y-o-y, to 702 million RTKs, which also marks a 0.2% decline from October 2018 traffic. Year-to-date, traffic is up 6.0% from the same period in 2017. Most of the growth is in international cargo traffic, which is up 3.9% for November and 6.0% year-to-date.

Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines reported a rise in cargo traffic of 2.0% to 675 million RTKs year-over-year. Through November, traffic increased by 7.0% to 6.9 billion RTKs. Overall cargo and mail tonnage decreased 1.8% y-o-y in November to 152,280 tonnes – a 5.3% month-to-month increase.

Taiwan-based China Airlines reported November cargo traffic up 0.8% y-o-y to 523 million RTKs, for a 4.6% increase from October traffic. Year-to-date, China Airlines’ cargo traffic is up 3.3% compared with the same period in 2017 at 5.38 billion RTKs. Cargo yields were up 9.6% from October 2017 and 8.3% year-to-date.

Taiwan-based EVA Air reported November traffic declined 4.5% y-o-y at 300 million FTKs. Tonnage decreased to just under 54,000 tonnes. Year-to-date through November, EVA’s cargo traffic was down 8.8% compared to the same period in 2017.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) reported its November cargo handle down 2.0% y-o-y to 466,000 tonnes. Year-to-date, HKG’s handle was up 2.5%. The airport said that all route regions registered declines in cargo load factor, which was 3.4% lower, as demand did not keep pace with capacity changes.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal Co Ltd (Pactl, the largest cargo handler at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport) reported its November cargo handle down 5.1% y-o-y to 167,134 tonnes. International cargo volumes fell 5.1%. Inbound volumes were 10.6% lower y-o-y in November, while outbound volumes only saw a 1.0% decrease. Meanwhile, domestic cargo throughput fell 4.5% y-o-y. Year-to-date, cargo handled by PACTL is still up 2.5% at 1.74 million tonnes.

South Korea-based Incheon Airport’s (ICN’s) cargo handle fell 2.0% y-o-y in November to 261,385 tonnes. Year-to-date volumes are up 1.7% compared to the first eleven months of 2017.

Europe & Middle East

Lufthansa Group reported November traffic down by 0.9% y-o-y, to 953 million RTKs, marking the sixth month in a row Lufthansa has reported declining cargo traffic. Year-to-date through November, cargo traffic is up 0.8% to 10 billion RTKs.

Air France-KLM reported a 0.8% increase in cargo traffic during November, to 765 million RTKs. Both Air France and KLM contributed to the growth, at 4.8% and 2.3% y-o-y growth, respectively, in November. Cargo traffic for the first ten months of 2018 is up by a slight 0.7% y-o-y, to 7.9 billion RTKs.

International Airlines Group reported a 4.1% y-o-y decline in cargo traffic for November, to 509 million RTKs. Year-to-date, cargo traffic has also declined from 2017 levels, with January through November 2018 coming in at 1.2% under the same period in 2017 for total cargo traffic. Among IAG’s subsidiary carriers, Aer Lingus saw the strongest growth for the month. British Airways, the most significant of IAG’s subsidiaries from a cargo perspective, recorded a 6.3% drop y-o-y in November.

Turkish Airlines extended its long-running, double-digit growth streak in November, when volumes increased 26.3% to about 131,000 tonnes. Year-to-date, the carrier’s volumes are up 25.2% – undoubtedly very strong growth, but still slightly slower growth than during 2017, when volumes for the full year were up 25.8% compared to 2016.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported a 1.8% drop in its y-o-y cargo handle for November, to 194,000 tonnes. From January through November, FRA’s cargo handle is down 1.1% to 1.99 million tonnes.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) reported a 2.3% decline in its y-o-y cargo handle for November, to 144,000 tonnes. Year-to-date, AMS’s cargo handle is down 2.4% to 1.58 million tonnes, compared to 1.62 million tonnes for the same period in 2017.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported a 10.4% decrease y-o-y in its November cargo handle, to 138,000 tonnes. Volumes at the airport are down a narrow 0.1% for the first eleven months of 2018, compared to the same period in 2017.


Chile-headquartered LATAM Airlines Group’s November traffic declined 0.7% y-o-y to 312 million RTKs – only slightly lower growth than reported for October this year. Through November, cargo traffic is up 5.6% year-to-date.

Delta Air Lines’ November cargo traffic declined 2.8% y-o-y at 165 million RTKs. Year-to-date, the carrier’s traffic is up 1.7%.

United Airlines’ cargo traffic fell 2.3 % y-o-y in November to 293 million RTKs. Year-to-date, the carrier’s traffic is still up by 3.6% at 3.1 billion RTKs.

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