The recent news that six carriers have booked thirty-five extra freighter flights at Hong Kong International Airport for the November/December peak period raised hopes that, despite continuing problems in Europe, the world is pulling out of the economic funk it has been in for the last two years, with a consequent increase in demand for air freight. But how strong is the evidence for this? The thirty-five flights booked are mostly for 747 freighters, so one might reasonably expect something on the order of 3,500 extra tonnes of freight to be moved. Given that HKIA has handled an average 330,000 tonnes per month, the 3,500 extra tonnes over two months would increase the monthly totals by just over half a percent. Not exactly cause for celebration.
Perhaps more significant is a recent comment by Hong Kong Airport Authority CEO Stanley Hui Hon-chung, who was quoted in the South China Morning Post as saying: “Preliminary numbers on cargo throughput in November also suggest a welcome and strong rebound in the year-end peak months. We are cautiously optimistic about cargo performance for 2012 given the arrival of the holiday season.” We also note that Hactl, HKIA’s biggest cargo handler, reported its year-to-date handle through October up 1.0% over 2011.
While both Hactl’s performance through October and Mr. Hui’s comments about November are certainly welcome news, HKIA is, however, still about 5% below where it was in 2010. So while things may be looking up, we are hardly in a position to declare the return of the good old days. Demand may be improving, but as Cathay Pacific cargo boss Nick Rhodes put it, “Nobody is cracking open the champagne at Cathay Pacific this peak season.”
Trends in airfreight demand, including its connection with overall world economic performance, will be a major subject of discussion at the upcoming Cargo Facts Asia event in Hong Kong on 16 – 17 April. More information on the event, which was tremendously successful last year, is available at the Cargo Facts Asia website.
We look forward to seeing you in Hong Kong, and we hope by April that it will be time to break out the Champagne.