Cargo traffic bounces back in August first look

August results are in from some of the world’s big carriers, handlers, and airports, and after lackluster June and mixed July results, cargo growth looks to have rebounded during, particularly out of Asia. However, while more of the major carriers reported year-over-year growth during August compared to the past couple of months, growth rates are mostly in the low single digits, indicating that the trade war between the US and China, as well as global increases in protectionist rhetoric, may be negatively impacting air cargo traffic.

To look more closely at regional performance during August:

Asia Pacific

Cathay Pacific Airways reported August cargo traffic up 7.4% y-o-y to 1.05 billion RTKs. Year-to-date, Cathay’s cargo traffic was up 6.6% to 7.93 billion RTKs.

Singapore Airlines reported August cargo traffic up 0.9% y-o-y to 596 million RTKs, the second-highest traffic month in 2018. Although up only slightly from August 2017, the monthly result represents the first positive growth month for SIA Cargo since February. From January through August, SIA Cargo’s traffic was up by a narrow margin of 0.2% to 4.61 billion RTKs.

Beijing-based Air China reported Augustcargo traffic up 6.1% year-over-year, to 680 million RTKs, which also marks a 0.7% decline from July 2018 traffic. Year-to-date, traffic is up 7.7% from the same period in 2017. Most of the growth is from international cargo traffic, which is up 7.2% y-o-y for August and 9.2% year-to-date. In tonnage, Air China’s handle increased 5.3% y-o-y for August and is up 7.7% year-to-date.

Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines reported its second month in a row of double-digit growth in cargo traffic, which rose 15.1% y-o-y for August to 660 million RTKs. Through August, traffic increased by 7.5% to 4.87 billion RTKs. Overall cargo and mail tonnage was up by 9.7% y-o-y in August to 149,000 tonnes – a 5.7% month-to-month increase.

Taiwan-based China Airlines reported August cargo traffic up 2.8% y-o-y to 512 million RTKs, for a 2.3% decline from July traffic. Year-to-date, China Airlines’ cargo traffic is up 3.6% compared with the same period in 2017 at 3.81 billion RTKs. Cargo yields were up 16.9% from August 2017, and up 12.3% year-to-date.

Taiwan-based EVA Air reported August cargo traffic down 6.5% y-o-y at 306 million FTKs, the lowest traffic month for the carrier since February. Tonnage was also down 2.3% y-o-y to about 54,000 tonnes. Year-to-date through August, EVA’s cargo traffic was up only 0.2% compared to the same period in 2017.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal Co Ltd (Pactl, the biggest cargo handler at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport) reported its August cargo handle up 3.8% y-o-y to about 163,000 tonnes. International cargo traffic saw the largest increase at 4.8% – mostly on the outbound side, which rose 8.2% y-o-y in August, compared to only a 0.4% increase in international inbound traffic. Meanwhile, domestic cargo throughput fell 14.7% y-o-y. Year-to-date, cargo moving through PACTL was up 5.2% at 1.25 million tonnes.

South Korea-based Incheon Airport’s cargo traffic increased 1.9% y-o-y in August to 242,000 tonnes. Year-to-date volumes were also 1.9% higher compared to the same period in 2017.

Europe & Middle East

Lufthansa Group reported August traffic down by 0.7% y-o-y, to 895 million RTKs, for the third month in a row Lufthansa has reported declining cargo traffic. Year-to-date through August, cargo traffic is up 1.7% to 7.17 billion RTKs.

Air France-KLM reported a 4.8% increase in cargo traffic during August, to 741 million RTKs. Both Air France and KLM contributed to the growth, at 5.7% and 4.1% y-o-y growth, respectively, in August. Year-to-date, cargo traffic is up for the first month since February, at 0.2% growth year-over-year to 5.61 billion RTKs.

International Airlines Group reported 0.4% y-o-y cargo traffic growth in August, to 472 million RTKs. Year-to-date, cargo traffic has still declined from 2017 levels, with January through August 2018 coming in 0.8% 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 0.5% increase y-o-y in August.

Turkish Airlines extended its long-running double-digit growth streak in August, when volumes increased 20.8% to about 118,000 tonnes. Year-to-date, the carrier’s volumes are up 25.5% – undoubtedly very strong growth, but still on track to be an overall slower growth year than 2017, when volumes for the full year were up 39.0% compared to 2016.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported a 0.8% increase in its y-o-y cargo handle for August, to 183,000 tonnes. From January through August, FRA’s cargo handle is down by 0.7% to 1.46 million tonnes.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported a 1.2% increase y-o-y in its August cargo handle, to 141,000 tonnes. Year-to-date, volumes at the airport are up 1.5% compared to the same period in 2017.


Chile-headquartered LATAM Airlines Group’s August traffic grew 2.5% y-o-y to 299 million RTKs, for the smallest growth month the carrier has reported so far in 2018. Through August, cargo traffic is up 7.4% year-to-date.

Delta Air Lines reported a 1.4% y-o-y increase in cargo traffic during August to 289 million RTKs, marking a rebound from two months over declines. Year-to-date, the carrier’s traffic is up 3.1%.

United Airlines’ cargo traffic increased by 3.4% y-o-y in August to 409 million RTKs. Year-to-date, the carrier’s traffic is up 5.7%.

Learn more about trends in air freight 10-12 October at  Cargo Facts Symposium, where a roundtable panel discussion will be dedicated to the topic. For more information, or to register, visit

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