A very good month

November data from many of the world’s big cargo carriers and airports are now available, and the news is almost uniformly good. It will be a couple of weeks before IATA publishes its wider analysis of the month’s results, but based on reports from the key players, as well as anecdotal evidence, it seems likely that IATA will report a year-over-year gain in freight traffic in the high single digits.

A detailed analysis of the cargo performance of some of the major carriers and airports in November follows below, but something that jumps out from the summary chart at right merits discussion first: For much of the past two years, gains made by carriers based in the Middle East came from market share taken directly from the big European and Asian carriers, but that appears to have changed in November.

Not every carrier outside the Middle East had a stellar month, but it is important to note that those that did not make strong gainsat least showed great improvement over their recent performance. And as for those that did well, the year-over-year gains were impressive. Cathay up 8% China Eastern up 8%, China Southern up 12%, Lufthansa up 6%… Read on for the details

Asia Pacific

Cathay Pacific Airways reported November cargo traffic up 8.1% y-o-y to  883 million RTKs. For the year-to-date through November, Cathay’s cargo traffic was down 1.9% to 7.94 billion RTKs. Discussing the November results, Cathay Pacific General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing Mark Sutch said: “The increase in volumes that began in late October continued to gain momentum in November and we ramped up capacity on key long-haul routes accordingly. The surge in traffic was driven by hi-tech consumer goods being shipped out of Mainland China and other major manufacturing centers in Asia. Demand was especially robust on transpacific routes and the momentum was maintained through to the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the month.”

Hong Kong International Airport reported record cargo volume in November, with its monthly handle up 6.6% y-o-y to 399,000 tonnes, breaking the previous monthly record of 374,000 tonnes set in November last year. The growth was led by an 6.7% increase in export volume to 264,000 tonnes, while import volume was up 6.5% to 135,000 tonnes. For the year through November, HKIA’s cargo handle was up 3.1% to 4.1 million tonnes.

Beijing-based Air China reported October cargo traffic down 8.2% y-o-y to 456 million RTKs. The carrier gave no indication of the reason for the drop, but said International traffic was down 9.0% to 318 million RTKs and domestic traffic was down 5.3% to 128 million RTKs. Air China’s cargo traffic for the first eleven months of 2013 was up 0.6% to 4.59 billion RTKs.

China Eastern Airlines reported November cargo traffic up 7.8% y-o-y to 449 million RTKs. International traffic was up 8.1% to 345 million RTKs, while domestic traffic was up 6.4% to 92 million RTKs. For the year through November, China Eastern’s cargo traffic was up 2.7% to 4.43 billion RTKs.

Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines reported November cargo traffic up 11.6% y-o-y to 430 million RTKs. International traffic was up 12.6% to 287 million RTKs, while domestic traffic was up 9.9% to 142 million RTKs. For the first eleven months of 2013 China Southern’s cargo traffic was up 3.9% to 3.92 billion RTKs.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminals Co. Ltd (Pactl, the biggest cargo handler at PVG) reported its November handle up 11.0% y-o-y to 129,000 tonnes. International volume was up 10.5% to 121,000 tonnes, while the much smaller domestic volume rose 17.0% to 9,000 tonnes (most of Shanghai’s domestic cargo moves through nearby Hongqiao Airport). For the first eleven months of 2013, Pactl’s handle was up 2.8% to 1.04 million tonnes.

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) reported its October handle down 36.1% y-o-y to 65,000 tonnes, but both the tonnage and the y-o-y percentage change are effectively meaningless, because Cathay Pacific (long Hactl’s biggest customer by far) is now handling almost all of its own cargo at the terminal it opened earlier this year. As noted above, Hong Kong International Airport reported its November handle up 6.6%, and that, rather than Hactl’s drop of almost 40% is what gives a true picture of cargo activity in Hong Kong. For the year-to-date through November Hactl’s handle was down 12.2% to 2.21 million tonnes.

Singapore Airlines continued a two-year trend of declining demand, reporting November cargo traffic down 2.1% y-o-y to 566 million RTKs. For the first eleven months of 2013 SIA’s cargo traffic was down 5.1% to 5.95 billion RTKs.

Europe & Middle East

Lufthansa Cargo reported its November traffic up 5.4% y-o-y to 810 million RTKs. This is the seventh consecutive month of positive results for the carrier, and its biggest year-over-year increase since the start of the downturn. For the Lufthansa Group as a whole, November cargo traffic was up 5.5% to 947 million RTKs. Lufthansa reported particularly strong growth in air freight demand on the Asia-Pacific lane (up 12.7% to 428 million RTKs) and modest growth on the trans-Atlantic lane (up 2.8% to 404 million RTKs). However, traffic to/from the Middle East/Africa was down 14.3% to 78 million RTKs. For the first eleven months of 2013, Lufthansa Cargo’s traffic was down 0.2% to 8.03 billion RTKs, while Group cargo traffic was down up 0.3% to 9.46 billion RTKs.

Air France-KLM reported its first positive monthly cargo result in what seems like years, with November traffic up 0.4% y-o-y to 891 million RTKs. Traffic was up 4.0% on the Asia-Pacific trade lane to 355 million RTKs, but down on the other major lanes, with trans-Atlantic traffic down 0.3% to 360 million RTKs, and traffic to/from the Middle East & Africa down 5.4% to 134 million RTKs. For the year-to-date through November, AF-KLM’s cargo traffic was down 4.7% to 9.24 billion RTKs.

International Airlines Group (parent of British Airways and Iberia) reported November cargo traffic up 1.5% y-o-y to 533 million RTKs, the first time this year it has reported a y-o-y result better than -7.0%. Subsidiary carrier BA reported cargo traffic up 5.7% to 442 million RTKs, while Iberia continued its dismal performance with cargo traffic down 15.0% to 91 million RTKs. For the first eleven months of 2013 IAG’s cargo traffic was down 7.2% to 5.17 billion RTKs.

Turkish Airlines continues to report exceptionally strong results, with October cargo volume up 36.4% y-o-y to 54,000 tonnes. For the first eleven months of 2013, Turkish reported cargo volume up 20.5% to 512,000 tonnes.

Etihad Airways reported its November cargo volume up an astonishing 52.2% y-o-y, to 33,000 tonnes. For the year-to-date, Etihad’s cargo volume was up 42.8% to 228,000 tonnes.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported its November freight handle up 3.9% y-o-y to 189,000 tonnes, continuing a trend of small gains and small declines that began in January. Overall, however, the trend has been slightly positive and for the first eleven months of 2013, FRA’s handle was up 1.3% to 1.89 million tonnes. However, while the year-to-date handle is up slightly over 2012, it is still 1.5% below 2007 – that is, FRA is handling less freight now than it did six years ago.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported its November handle up 7.5% y-o-y to 133,000 tonnes. For the year-t-date through November, LHR’s handle was down 3.0% to 1.30 million tonnes.


All of the big three non-express carriers in the US reported gains in November. American Airlines reported another strong month, with traffic up 16.7%; Delta posted its second y-o-y increase this year with a solid 3.6% gain, and United broke into positive territory with a 4.3% increase. In the Southern hemisphere, LATAM (which carries more cargo than any of the US combination carriers) continued to report declining demand.

LATAM Airlines Group (parent of LAN and TAM) continues its recent trend of declining cargo traffic, reporting November traffic down 2.3% y-o-y to 404 million RTKs, as capacity declined 6.0%. The company said the decrease in capacity was “a result of a reduced freighter operation, in addition to decreased availability in the bellies of passenger aircraft,” and that the decrease in cargo traffic “was driven by weaker imports into Latin America.” For the first eleven months of 2013, LATAM’s cargo traffic was up 0.2% to 4.07 billion RTKs.

United Airlines reported November cargo traffic up 4.3% y-o-y to 294 million RTKs – the second month of year-over-year gains after a year and a half of declines. For the year through November, United’s cargo traffic was down 10.8% to 2.95 billion RTKs.

Delta Air Lines reported November cargo traffic up 3.6% y-o-y to 294 million RTKs. For the first eleven months of the year, Delta’s cargo traffic was down 1.4% to 3.16 billion RTKs.

American Airlines reported November cargo traffic up 16.7% y-o-y to 247 million RTKs. For the year through November, American’s cargo traffic was up 3.5% to 2.95 billion RTKs.

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