Cargo traffic suffers in February

February 2016 stats V2With February results now in from many of the world’s major carriers and airports, we ought to have a clearer picture of the start to 2016, with the impact of the timing of the Chinese New Year holiday eliminated by treating January and February as a single month. However, the picture this year is also clouded by a boost to air freight in early 2015 due to labor problems at the US West Coast ocean ports, and by February having one more day this year than in 2015.

But even with those caveats in mind, the results in the chart at right make us pessimistic about the start to 2016. There are a couple of bright spots – China Southern Airlines and Turkish Airlines continue to report solid increases in demand, and there are some small gains at Western European airports and carriers – but overall the trend appears to be negative.

If you are interested in learning more about demand trends, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, register now to join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2016. Cargo Facts Asia will take place in Hong Kong, 19 – 20 April. To register, or for more information, go to

Now for the details…

Asia Pacific

Cathay Pacific Airways reported February cargo traffic down 10.4% y-o-y to 682 million RTKs. This follows a slight (0.5%) decline in January, and brings the carrier’s cargo traffic for the first two months of 2016 to 1.54 million RTKs, down 5.2% compared to the first two months of 2015. Commenting on the December performance, Cathay Pacific General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing Mark Sutch said: “Airfreight demand dropped away sharply in the early part of the month as factories in Mainland China closed down for the Chinese New Year holiday. In comparison to the holiday period last year, demand was much slower in picking up after factories reopened, which led to a higher concentration of lower-yield cargo from Southeast Asia and India being uplifted onto our transpacific freighter flights. The sustained drop in fuel prices has led to older aircraft become more economically viable. The resulting overcapacity continues to put downward pressure on cargo yields.”

Hong Kong International Airport reported cargo volume in February down 14.9% y-o-y to 258,000 tonnes. Combined with January’s modest 1.5% growth, this brings HKIA’s handle for the first two months to 659,000 tonnes, down 6.1% over the same period in 2015. Commenting on the December results, HKIA said: “The decline in cargo throughput for February was mainly attributed to a 23% year-on-year drop in exports. Imports and transshipments decreased by 9% and 6%, respectively, compared to the same month last year. Cargo throughput to/from key trading region in North America registered the most significant drop.” The airport also pointed out that cargo volume in February last year was boosted by the industrial action at ports on the west coast of the United States, so the comparison is a tough one.


Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines reported February cargo traffic down 7.5% y-o-y to 311 million RTKs. However, this follows strong 22.4% growth in January, and for the combined January/February period, China Southern’s cargo traffic was up 9.4% to 841 million RTKs. The two-month growth was driven by 13.9% growth in international traffic to 584 million RTKs, while domestic traffic was almost flat (up just 0.4%) compared to the same period last year at 254 million RTKs.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminals Co. Ltd (Pactl, the biggest cargo handler at PVG): After reporting its January handle up 6.0% y-o-y, Pactl reported its February handle down 10.8% y-o-y to 93,000 tonnes. For the combined two months, Pactl’s handle was down 1.6% to 225,000 tonnes.

Europe & Middle East

Lufthansa reported a 5.4% y-o-y drop in Group cargo traffic in February to 736 million RTKs. This follows a 2.0% decline in January, and for the first two months of the year, Lufthansa’s Group cargo traffic was down 3.6% to 1.44 billion RTKs. On a regional basis, Group cargo traffic for the two month period was down 6.8% to 637 million RTKs on the trans-Atlantic lane, down 0.2% to 621 million RTKs on the Asia-Pacific lane, and down 4.3% to 125 million RTKs on the Middle East/Africa lane

Air France-KLM continued to report significant declines in cargo traffic, with February down 9.7% y-o-y to 656 million RTKs. This follows a 0.1% drop in January, and leaves the carrier’s cargo traffic for the two-month period down 8.1% to 1.32 billion RTKs. Air France-KLM’s cargo capacity was cut 6.7% as the group continues to reduce its freighter fleet. At the end of 2015 Air-France KLM operated nine freighters, including three 747-400ERFs, one 747-BCF, two 777Fs and three MD-11Fs. By mid-2016, the carrier says it will remove an four freighters, leaving only two 777Fs based in Paris and three 747-400ERFs based in Amsterdam.

International Airlines Group reported February cargo traffic up 1.4% y-o-y to 428 million RTKs, in line with the 1.2% y-o-y increase reported in January. For the first two months of 2015, IAG’s cargo traffic was up 2.5% to 850 million RTKs.  The overall increase in cargo traffic came on the back of a 10.4% jump at subsidiary carrier Iberia Airlines to 170 million RTKs, while the larger British Airways traffic slid 2.1% to 661 million RTKs.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported its February cargo handle down 1.7% to 157,000 tonnes. For the first two months of 2016, FRA’s handle was down 1.0% to 313 million tonnes.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported its February handle up 2.7% y-o-y to 119,000 tonnes. For the first two months of 2015, LHR’s handle was up 28.8% to 231,000 tonnes.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport reported its February handle down 2.5% to 123,000 tonnes. For the year to date, AMS’ handle was up 1.0% to 249,000 tonnes.

Turkish Airlines reported February cargo volume up 21.2% y-o-y to 59,000 tonnes, continuing its year-long pattern of solid gains. For the first two months of 2016, Turkish’s cargo volume was up 12.3% to 112,000 tonnes.


Cargo traffic continued to fall at Chile-headquartered LATAM Airlines Group, which reported February traffic down 7.4% y-o-y to 285 million RTKs. Combined with the 10.7% in January, this leaves LATAM’s cargo traffic for the first two months of 2016 down 9.1% to 573 million RTKs. The company said cargo traffic continued to be “weak during the month of January, especially in Brazil domestic and international markets.” As a result, the company added, “we continue to adjust cargo capacity through a reduced freighter operation, which resulted in a decline of 0.7% of cargo ATKs in January.”

United Airlines reported February cargo traffic down 11.8% y-o-y to 285 million RTKs. For the first two months of 2016, United’s cargo traffic was up 16.2% to 616 million RTKs.

American Airlines Group reported February cargo traffic 1.2% y-o-y to 254 million RTKs. For the combined January/February period, American’s cargo traffic was down 2.0% to 496 million RTKs.

Delta Air Lines reported February cargo traffic down 12.6% y-o-y to 226 million RTKs. For the first two months of this year, Delta’s cargo traffic was down 10.8% to 456 million RTKs.

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