Asia Cargo Monthly: Asian airlines edge up on 2015 after late surge

27 / 01 / 2017

A late surge in cargo demand helped Asian airlines record an improvement in traffic during 2016.

Of the seven Asian airlines monitored by Air Cargo News, five managed to record an improvement in demand on 2015 levels.

This follows on from improvements for the year being registered for both European and US airlines.

The largest of the carriers, Cathay Pacific, saw traffic increase by 0.8% year on year in 2016 to 10.7bn cargo and mail revenue tonne kms (CMRTK), thanks to improving market conditions in the second half of the year. In December, it registered a 6.1% improvement to 1bn CMRTK.

Cathay Pacific General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing Mark Sutch said: “The seasonal peak for airfreight carried into December, with exports from mainland China, Asia and the Americas seeing encouraging year-on-year growth.

"Demand from our home market of Hong Kong was also sustained. Overall tonnage grew ahead of capacity, with our load factor improving month-on-month.

"The demand for perishables, machineries and e-commerce products persisted, while our new freighter services to Portland and Brisbane West Wellcamp have also been well received by the market.”

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With capacity edging up by a slightly lower level than traffic, the airline group’s average cargo load factor for the year improved to 64.4% from 64.2% in 2015.

The fastest growing airline was China Southern which saw demand for the year increase by 9.9% year on year to 6.2bn revenue tonne km.

The improvement in demand is in line with airline’s rapid fleet and network expansion over the last few years. Last year, capacity increased by 8.6% and its load factor improved to 51.9% from 51.3%.

While the improvement is the largest of the seven Asia airline’s, it does lag behind 2015’s growth of 11.9% and 2014’s increase of 17%.

The next fastest growing airline was Air China, which saw traffic for the year increase by 6.1% year on year to 6.9bn revenue and freight tonne km.

Again, while impressive, the growth figure lags behind the 15.2% improvement it recorded in 2015 and the 14.3% registered for 2014.

The traffic increase is roughly in line with a capacity addition of 6.3%, while the average cargo load factor for the year slipped to 54.6% compared with 54.7% in 2015.

Singapore Airlines saw cargo demand increase by 5.8% for the year to 6.9bn freight tonne km, which is an improvement on the 1.5% increase registered in 2015.

Its average cargo load factor for the year improved by 0.1 percentage points to 62.6%.

China Eastern registered an increase of 0.2% for the year to 4.9bn revenue freight tonne km. This is the airline’s second annual improvement in a row, but is down on 2015’s improvement of 1.3%.

The two airlines to see cargo demand decline in 2016 were Eva Air and China Airlines. Eva Air saw cargo demand decrease by 2.1% year on year to 3.6bn freight tonne km, despite an end of year surge that culminated in a 9.7% improvement in December.

Eva Air has registered demand decreases every year at least until 2012, when Air Cargo News records began.

China Airlines also registered a decline in traffic as figures slipped by 1.2% to 5.3bn freight revenue tonne km. The airline saw a slight increase of 1.3% in 2015.