Asian cargo monthly: Airfreight demand weakens in May
01 / 07 / 2016
May turned out to be a difficult month for Asian airlines that, like their European and North American counterparts, saw demand weaken after improvements in April.
The largest Asian cargo airline group, Cathay Pacific, air saw cargo demand decline by 4.6% year on year in May to 833m cargo and mail tonne km.
This follows on from a “better than expected” performance in April when it recorded a slight increase in demand.
Analysts had warned improvements experienced by airlines in April could have been down to an earlier Easter holiday than the previous year and an extra weekend.
While demand was down in May, the Hong Kong-headquartered airline group said there were some positives to draw from the month.
Cathay Pacific general manager cargo sales and marketing Mark Sutch said: “May saw a further stabilisation in the tonnage being shipped out of some of our key markets, in particular mainland China, northeast Asia and the southwest Pacific.
“As per the previous number of months, demand into India remained robust and we have increased capacity into the region to cater for this accordingly.
“The freightage yield, however, has continued to remain under intense pressure in what continues to be a challenging and capacity rich air cargo environment.”
Out of the five months of the year so far, it is the third in which Cathay has recorded a cargo demand decline.
The carrier has made moves to reduce capacity in light of the tough market conditions, and in May reduced capacity by 4.8% on a year earlier to give its load factor a boost to 62.2% from 62.1% in 2015.
The largest demand decline came at China Eastern where there was a 5.6% year-on-year decline to 400m revenue freight tonne km.
It is the fifth monthly decline registered by the airline this year and follows a 1.4% increase in demand in 2015.
While demand decreased, capacity at the airline was up by 4.5% on year earlier as it continues a capacity expansion that began in December 2014.
As a result, its load factor slid to 51% from 56.4% in May last year.
Eva Air was the next airline to report a demand decline as it registered a slide of 2% for May to 298m freight tonne km. It is the fifth decrease in a row registered by the Taiwanese airline.
Eva air has been holding back on capacity expansion this year, with decreases over the first three months of the year. However, in April and May it increased capacity by 0.5% compared with a year earlier.
As a result, its load factor slid to 80.1% compared with 82% in May last year – this is still the highest load factor of all airlines in this monthly review.
Not all airlines saw demand decline during the month. Air China actually registered a 3.9% increase in demand to 590m revenue freight tonne km.
Air China has been growing rapidly over recent years, with demand up by double-digit levels in 2014 and 2015.
So far this year, it has recorded demand increases in four of the five months for which figures have been published.
The demand increases of the last few years come in line with capacity additions. In May capacity was up by 7.7% on the previous year, while its load factor slid to 54.8% from 56.8%.
Singapore Airlines Cargo also registered a demand increase, of 3.6% to 893m freight tonne km, the fourth increase it has registered this year.
Its load factor was up to 62.3% from 61.6% in May last year.
China Airlines and China Southern, normally included in the monthly review, had failed to publish figures for May at the time of publication.