Asia Cargo Monthly: Slow start to the year for Asian carriers

It was a slow start to the year on the cargo front for airlines based in the Asia region, with only China Airlines and Eva Air recording significant improvements in demand.
While only two of the region’s airlines managed to continue to grow at the levels recorded towards the end of last year, January and February do tend to be affected by when the Chinese New Year falls and factories close for around two weeks. This year the holiday fell slightly earlier than it did in 2016.
The region’s largest cargo airline group, Cathay Pacific, saw demand increase by 1% year on year to 863m cargo and mail revenue tonne km.
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While this is ahead of the 0.8% improvement it registered for 2016 as a whole, it lags behind the 6.1% improvement registered in December last year.
However, the airline group was positive about its performance during the month and it managed to increase its cargo load factor by 0.3 percentage points to 61.9% thanks to demand growth outstripping a 0.6% increase in capacity.
Cathay Pacific general manager cargo sales and marketing Mark Sutch said: “We got off to a solid start in 2017. Tonnage grew ahead of capacity and showed an increase over the same month last year.
“We saw a good rebound in demand from Hong Kong, mainland China and various key Asian markets. Yield was sustained through a better mix of priority and special shipments.
“There was also robust demand for fresh produce and seafood across the network. We operated a number of extra-sector freighters to the Americas, Europe and India in January, while cutting back on capacity in February to adapt to Chinese New Year’s January start.”
The fastest growing airline during the month was Eva Air, which registered a 7.4% year on year increase in demand to 292m freight tonne km as capacity increased by 0.6%.
With demand growth far outstripping supply, cargo load factors reached 84.5% against 78.1% in January last year.
This improvement follows on from a 2.1% decrease in demand for 2016 and a 10.4% decline in 2015.
The other fast growing airline during the month was China Airlines, which saw traffic increase by 6.2% year on year to 426m freight revenue tonne km.
This improvement comes in line with a 5.4% capacity increase. As a result its cargo load factor for the month reached 67.8% compared with 67.3% last year.
The improvement in cargo demand is in contrast to the Taiwanese airline’s performance over the last couple of years − it registered a demand decline of 1.2% year on year in 2016 and a small increase of 1.3% in 2015.
The other airline groups to record demand improvements during the month were Singapore Airlines Cargo, which registered a 3.5% improvement to 559m freight tonne km, at China Southern there was 1% growth to 536m revenue tonne km – far behind the 9.9% increase in demand registered in 2016 – and Air China was up 0.3% to 557m revenue freight tonne km, compared with a 15.2% demand improvement last year.
Finally, China Eastern saw demand decrease by 2.3% year on in year to 400m revenue freight tonne km.
The individual airline results differ from those of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines reported strong growth in January of 4.7%, although this only included international and not domestic demand.
It was also a strong start to the year for North American airlines, while there was mixed performance at European carriers.

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