Where is the freight?

  • David Harris
  • July 15, 2011
  • Archive

Usually, when putting together the cargo traffic statistics section of the monthly print issue of Cargo Facts, it is easy to spot the basic trend. Perhaps most carriers and airports are reporting either increases. Or there may be a general pattern of decreases. Or perhaps the trend is regional, with Asia-North America strong while Asia-Europe is weak.


But as you will see when you receive the July issue of Cargo Facts (you do subscribe, right?) trends almost seem to be a thing of the past. Some carriers report strong loads, some are bleeding. Airports are generally reporting lower volumes, so perhaps that is a trend, but consider the oddity of Frankfurt reporting its June handle down 6.4% while its main client, Lufthansa Cargo, reports an increase of 4.2% in cargo traffic.


And don’t forget that some of the poor results are less poor than they seem, because the comparison month was unusually strong. For example, IATA’s data for May show international freight traffic down 4.3% y-o-y, but May 2010 was the single strongest month of the recovery, with international freight traffic up 34.4%, so what does the 4.3% decline this year really mean? June 2010, while not quite as strong as May, was still a month when most carriers and airports were reporting gains of 20% or more, so some of the less-than-stellar results this year are not as bad as they may at first seem.


Nor were all results bad. Carriers like Etihad and Turkish Airlines reported huge gains. Yes, they (and some of the other gainers) have increased their capacity, but that alone does not explain the traffic gains. No matter how much capacity a carrier offers, traffic will not increase unless shippers are actually shipping.


I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Anecdotal evidence from your corner of the industry. Something you overheard in a bar when a couple of cargo execs had a few too many drinks. Or even serious statistical research you think we may have missed. If you have an opinion on the current demand situation, post up.

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3 thoughts on “Where is the freight?

  1. well well…too much capacity on many routes…reactive and flexible all cargo carriers shift their capacities from one market to the other, e.g from far east to south america, this has impacts on rates and creates add competition on the latin american routes, again.

    rate increase is a taboo subject at the moment and say hello to the Antitrust collateral damages …!

    We all know there is overcapacity, and when there is not, the market and related industry is not supporting/following the needed rates to operate economically …..ergo …..Catch 22…..!

    some strange numbers would need and mean some strange explanations ……!

    Pride of operating new or more cargo aircrafts is not necessarly filling up the airlines cashflow …..but its always good for the alter ego of the airlines board members 🙂 and share holders.

    All pure cargo operators have to Avoid overcapacity at any costs ! and stop Airline networking for the cargo flows just because they fly international! this may boost up your numbers but reduces your market shares and revenue potentials out of your local market ! protect the interest of your local imp/exp markets first, as your aircraft has to come at home base …sooner or later …..home ..sweet home….

    having said this,  im leaving for well deserved vacations …..:-)


  2. Although Lufthansa figures look good, so far 2011 has been a relatively disappointing year for the air cargo industry. However, optimists can see some light… It is known that a leading indicator for air cargo is the semiconductor sales. Brian Toohey, the president of Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), has said lately “At a time of economic uncertainty, the semiconductor industry continues to be a bright spot in the U.S. economy”. Earlier forecast of semiconductors sales was 4.5% growth over 2010.  SIA has recently raised the forecast to 5.4% expecting the sales to reach $314.4 billion.

    Well, maybe we can still be somewhat optimistic regarding 2011 air cargo.

    Jacob Netz

  3. I think there has definitely been a lull in air freight caused by the economic downturn, although certain countries, such as Malaysia, are seeing an increase. Perhaps we should be looking to the less well off countries to see what they are doing right.