Who is carrying all that European traffic?

european-carriers-3q16-cargo-resultsAccording to IATA, cargo traffic flown by carriers based in Europe was up 12.6% year-over-year in September, their biggest gain in many years.

This strong performance by European carriers has now been going on for six months. But who is carrying all that cargo? In the past, the answer would have been simple: Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, and IAG were, by far, the biggest cargo players in Europe, and their traffic was so much greater than all other carriers, that one almost did not have to look any further than those three to know what was happening in the European cargo scene.

But a quick glance at the chart shows that this is no longer the case. In the third quarter of this year, cargo traffic at AF-KLM was down 7%, while Lufthansa’s traffic was up just 2%. The only member of the big three to show even moderate growth was IAG, where traffic was up 5%. But AF-KLM and Lufthansa each carry almost twice as much cargo as IAG, and the combined traffic of all three was actually down 0.1% for the quarter.

Given that cargo traffic for all carriers based in Europe was up between 8% and 9% for the quarter, carriers other than the big three above must be posting some terrific gains. Among the larger remaining carriers, we know that Turkish Airlines and AirBridgeCargo have been regularly reporting monthly y-o-y air freight demand growth in excess of 20%. Cargolux does not report on a regular basis, but has occasionally indicated cargo growth of between 10% and 20%. And although there is no data available, we expect that the European carriers that fly in support of the express companies are also seeing big gains.