Who carried the October cargo?

With October data now available from many of the world’s major cargo carriers and airports, and anecdotal evidence coming in from other sources, it seems safe to say that there will be a modest year-over-year increase in cargo traffic for the month. A detailed analysis of the cargo performance of some of the major carriers and airports in August follows below, but there is an oddity in the chart that merits discussion first.

Looking at the chart, one can see that the big airports (Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Frankfurt) reported strong gains. However, looking at the big carriers that have traditionally been the bellwethers for the industry — Cathay, Singapore Airlines, AF-KLM, Lufthansa, and IAG — one has to ask: “Who carried all the cargo the airports are reporting?” Lufthansa clearly saw its share, and, as can be seen in the chart, the big three Chinese carriers did well, as did Turkish Airlines, and US-based Delta and American. But if there is a significant year-over-year growth in October, and AF-KLM, SIA, Cathay, and IAG did not share in it, then we expect that much of it was carried on the main decks and in the bellies of aircraft operated by carriers based in the Persian Gulf region.

And now the details:

Asia Pacific

Cathay Pacific Airways reported October cargo traffic exactly flat y-o-y at 781 million RTKs. For the year-to-date through October, Cathay’s cargo traffic was down 3.0% to 7.05 billion RTKs. Discussing the October results, Cathay Pacific General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing Mark Sutch said: “The expected airfreight peak was late in arriving but by the end of October we had begun to see a significant climb in the tonnages being shipped out of the key manufacturing centres in Mainland China and Asia, driven by consumer IT products. We began to ramp up freighter capacity on the North American lanes and mounted a number of extra sectors and charters, but demand to and from Europe remained softer than hoped. Capacity was boosted by the addition of our latest freighter destination, Guadalajara, on 19 October.”


Hong Kong International Airport reported a strong gain in cargo volume in October, with its monthly handle up 6.1% y-o-y to 367,000 tonnes. The growth was led by an 8.3% jump in export volume to 240,000 tonnes, while import volume was up 2.3% to 127,000 tonnes and export volume down 0.1% to 221,000 tonnes. For the year through October, HKIA’s cargo handle was up 2.2% to 3.4 million tonnes.


Beijing-based Air China reported October cargo traffic up 2.2% y-o-y to 454 million RTKs. International traffic was up 3.5% to 324 million RTKs, and domestic traffic was down 0.3% to 121 million RTKs. This follows three months of declining cargo traffic that reversed the carrier’s positive trend in the first half of the year. Air China’s cargo traffic for the first ten months of 2013 was up 1.7% to 4.13 billion RTKs.


Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines reported October cargo traffic up 7.7% y-o-y to 420 million RTKs. International traffic was up 8.2% to 323 million RTKs, while domestic traffic was up 4.8% to 86 million RTKs. For the year through September, China Eastern’s cargo traffic was up 2.1% to 3.98 billion RTKs.


Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines reported October cargo traffic up 6.6% y-o-y to 383 million RTKs. International traffic was up 4.9% to 252 million RTKs, while domestic traffic was up 10.2% to 130 million RTKs. For the first ten months of 2013 China Southern’s cargo traffic was up 3.0% to 3.49 billion RTKs.


Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminals Co. Ltd (Pactl, the biggest cargo handler at PVG) reported its October handle up 9.6% y-o-y to 119,000 tonnes. International volume was up 10.1% to 111,000 tonnes, while the much smaller domestic volume rose 9.7% to 8,000 tonnes (most of Shanghai’s domestic cargo moves through nearby Hongqiao Airport). For the first ten months of 2013, Pactl’s handle was up 1.9% to 1.04 million tonnes.


Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) reported its October handle down 36.3% y-o-y to 153,000 tonnes, but both the tonnage and the y-o-y percentage change are effectively meaningless, because Cathay Pacific (long Hactl’s biggest customer by far) is now handling almost all of its own cargo at the terminal it opened earlier this year. As noted above, Hong Kong International Airport reported its October handle up 6.1%, and that, rather than Hactl’s drop of almost 40% is what gives a true picture of cargo activity in Hong Kong. For the year-to-date through September Hactl’s handle was down 9.6% to 2.04 million tonnes.


Singapore Airlines continued a two-year trend of declining demand, reporting October cargo traffic down 3.5% y-o-y to 545 million RTKs. For the first ten months of 2013 SIA’s cargo traffic was down 5.4% to 5.69 billion RTKs.


Europe & Middle East

Lufthansa Cargo reported its October traffic up 4.0% y-o-y to 780 million RTKs. This is the sixth consecutive month of positive results for the carrier, and its biggest year-over-year increase since the start of the downturn. For the Lufthansa Group as a whole, October cargo traffic was up 4.4% to 917 million RTKs. Lufthansa reported solid growth in air freight demand on both the to/from the Asia-Pacific lane (up 5.4% to 407 million RTKs) and the trans-Atlantic lane (up 6.6% to 395 million RTKs). However, traffic to/from the Middle East/Africa was down 9.5% to 78 million RTKs. For the first ten months of 2013, Lufthansa Cargo’s traffic was down 0.8% to 7.23 billion RTKs, while Group cargo traffic was down 0.3% to 8.50 billion RTKs.


Air France-KLM continued to report declining cargo demand, with October traffic down 3.3% y-o-y to 885 million RTKs. Traffic was down on all of the major trade lanes, with trans-Atlantic traffic down 2.5% to 360 million RTKs, traffic to/from the Asia-Pacific down 1.5% to 352 million RTKs, and traffic to/from the Middle East & Africa down 9.2% to 133 million RTKs. For the year-to-date through October, AF-KLM’s cargo traffic was down 5.2% to 8.35 billion RTKs.


International Airlines Group (parent of British Airways and Iberia) reported October cargo traffic down 7.2% y-o-y to 492 million RTKs. Both subsidiary carriers reported declines, with BA down 5.5% to 398 million RTKs and Iberia down 13.8% to 94 million RTKs. For the first ten months of 2013 IAG’s cargo traffic was down 8.1% to 4.64 billion RTKs.


Turkish Airlines continues to report exceptionally strong results, with October cargo volume up 29.1% y-o-y to 51,000 tonnes. For the first ten months of 2013, Turkish reported cargo volume up 18.9% to 458,000 tonnes.


Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported its October freight handle up 3.7% y-o-y to 180,000 tonnes, continuing a trend of small gains and small declines that began in January. Overall, however, the trend has been slightly positive and for the first ten months of 2013, FRA’s handle was up 1.4% to 1.70 million tonnes. However, while the year-to-date handle is up slightly over 2012, it is still 1.5% below 2007 – that is, FRA is handling less freight now than it did six years ago.


London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported its October handle down 1.0% y-o-y to 124,000 tonnes. For the year-t-date through October, LHR’s handle was down 3.6% to 1.17 million tonnes.




Two of the big three non-express carriers in the US reported gains in October. American Airlines more than doubled last month’s 7.5% jump in cargo traffic with an 18.6% y-o-y increase in October, and Delta posted its first y-o-y increase this year with a solid 6.6% gain. United continued in negative territory. In the Southern hemisphere, LATAM (which carries more cargo than any of the US combination carriers) reported declining demand.


LATAM Airlines Group (parent of LAN and TAM), reported October cargo traffic down 2.7% y-o-y to 387 million RTKs, as capacity declined 4.4%. The company said the slight decrease in capacity was “a result of a reduced freighter operation,” and that the decrease in cargo traffic “was driven by weaker imports into Latin America.” For the first ten months of 2013, LATAM’s cargo traffic was up 0.5% to 3.66 billion RTKs.


United Airlines reported October cargo traffic down 4.3% y-o-y to 287 million RTKs. For the year through October, United’s cargo traffic was down 12.3% to 2.64 billion RTKs.


Delta Air Lines reported October cargo traffic up 6.9% y-o-y to 316 million RTKs. For the first ten months of the year, Delta’s cargo traffic was down 1.9% to 2.86 billion RTKs.


American Airlines reported October cargo traffic up 18.6% y-o-y to 245 million RTKs. For the year through October, American’s cargo traffic was down up 2.2% to 2.64 billion RTKs.

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