Tough June for Europe’s air cargo carriers

European airlines continued to struggle with the continent’s weak economic conditions last month with volumes and load factors continuing to lag behind last year’s levels.
Combined data from the IAG Group, Lufthansa Group, Air France KLM and Finnair show that demand at the airlines they own declined by 4.6% year on year in June in terms of revenue/cargo tonne km.
Meanwhile, capacity in available tonne km terms from the airlines owned by Lufthansa, Air France KLM and Finnair was down by 2% on last year.
As a result, average load factors slipped to 61.3% compared with 63.3% a year earlier.
The year-to-date figures made for even more painful reading with demand for the first six months down by 5.3% against last year while supply decreased by just by 0.8%.
Average load factors for the year so far stand at 60.7% compared with 65.6% a year ago.
The only real bright spot that can be drawn from the figures is that load factors have reached their highest level since March.
The figures are also indicative of the fact that the airlines have now entered the more steady summer period, with demand historically peaking in the February/March period in line with the Chinese New Year and in October/November ahead of the Christmas period.
Of the individual airlines analysed, Finnair saw the largest year-on-year decline in volumes (14.8%) in June but its capacity was down 15%.
Finnair said: “The cargo overall figures reflect a structural change from the comparison period, as Finnair withdrew from the use of leased NGA freighter aircraft capacity in Asian traffic.
“In June, the cargo traffic consisted almost entirely of belly cargo on scheduled flights.”
IAG’s volumes at British Airways and Iberia were down 6.1% during the month, although it also ended freighter operations recently, affecting year-on-year comparisons.
Air France KLM saw June volumes slide by 6.6%, although it is also greatly reducing freighter capacity – down 22% on last year. Overall capacity at the airline was 5.2% behind last year.
The Lufthansa Group saw June volumes decline by 1.4% on last year, while capacity was up 2.3%.
Lufthansa Cargo, which accounts for more than 80% of the group’s overall cargo volumes, said it was “holding its own” in “a challenging market”.
Lufthansa Cargo chief executive Peter Gerber said: “After an exceptionally good start to 2015, we were aware of the challenging market situation again in the second quarter.
"We are monitoring the market very carefully and can react by adjusting our routes flexibly and quickly to changes in demand.
“This allows us to meet the needs of our customers while at the same time guaranteeing the profitability of the individual connections.”
The weakening performance compared with last year should come as no real surprise for European airlines as the economies of many countries continue to struggle.
In its wrap up for May, IATA said: “European carriers saw demand decline by 1.3% in May, compared to a year ago while capacity grew by 2.7%.
“Consumer confidence remains subdued in the region, and the region is at risk of economic contagion if a disorderly ‘Grexit’ from the Euro were to occur."
Director general and chief executive Tony Tyler added: “The expansion in volumes we saw in 2014 has ground to a halt, and load factors are falling.
“Some economic fundamentals still point to a rebound in the second half of the year, but we have to recognise that business confidence is flat and export orders in decline.”

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