Cargo demand improves at Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific reported an improvement in cargo demand in January, but the carrier continues to park its 747-400BCF freighters. Cathay’s January cargo traffic was up 7.7% y-o-y to 724 million RTKs, and General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing James Woodrow said: “Demand was generally quite robust out of our key Hong Kong and Mainland China markets in January, though we didn’t see any significant pre-Chinese New Year rush as in previous years.” Whether or not the January gain was boosted by the timing of the New Year holiday will not be known until February results are in, but Mr. Woodrow pointed to continued economic weakness in Europe, and said Cathay had reduced its freighter schedule on the Asia-Europe lane. Interestingly, while Cathay’s cargo traffic (measured in revenue tonne kilometers) for the month was up 7.7%, its cargo volume (measured in tonnes) was up 14.2% – almost double the traffic gain – indicating that regional demand grew much more strongly than long-haul.

Regarding the freighter fleet, Cathay is reported to have parked three more 747-400BCFs this month, leaving it with just one freighter-converted 747-400BCF still active, down from the thirteen it operated just two years ago. Of the twelve no longer in the fleet, six are operated by carriers in which Cathay is a joint-venture partner (three by Air Hong Kong, three by Air China Cargo), and six have been parked.

Cathay’s freighter fleet now consists of 21 units, including eight 747-8Fs, six 747-400ERFs, six 747-400Fs, and the single 747-400BCF, but more changes are in the works. Two more 747-8Fs are scheduled for delivery in the next two or three months (completing the original 10-unit order), but not long after that Cathay will begin taking delivery of the eight 777Fs (pictured above) it has on firm order. Given that cargo boss Nick Rhodes was quoted not too long ago as saying that while it was possible to make money in the freight business it wastough to make money operating freighters, one has to wonder what will become of the the -400Fs and -400ERFs currently in the fleet.

To learn more about these changes in Cathay’s fleet, as well as changes made by other carriers, join us at the second annual Cargo Facts Asia event in Hong Kong. For more information, or to register, visit

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