Recent reports and statistics show that the leading European carriers, with a few exceptions, are still showing lower cargo traffic figures month after month.
On the other hand, it seems that some of their not so large competitors are showing a boost in their share of the cargo market.
The three top carriers show lower volumes
January and February IATA statistics see both Air France-KLM and Lufthansa showing a cargo decline of 8.1% and 3.6% respectively.
Only IAG Cargo bucked the trend during the first two months with a cargo traffic increase of 2.5%.
When one considers the IATA reporting that worldwide cargo traffic went down by 1.6% in January/February, then the AF-KL and LH downward cargo results stick out like a sore thumb.
Of course, the first two months of each year are not necessarily a reliable benchmark for the rest of the year to come.
But worrying figures to say the least.
March figures went way down
Is there really a change in the European buying power and is the economy there now starting to feel the pinch due to continued economic woes and political disasters?
Or are these three large European cargo carriers a benchmark sign for a larger drop in demand for air cargo capacity worldwide?
It may seem like the latter when one looks at LH, AF-KL and BA’s March cargo results.
But, is that really the case?
If results shown by the end of February were causing uneasiness, then the March figures must be bringing the carriers managers into a full sweat.
- British Airways, IAG Cargo’s largest contributor showed almost a 6 percent downward trend in cargo volumes compared to March 2015.
- Lufthansa Cargo (Group figures) are even worse. Here they registered 10% below 2015. The cargo load-factor dropped to a low of 66.4%
- And, the “European loser” was AF-KL Cargo with a dramatic fall of 13.5% on combined cargo volumes. One has to realistically take into account that the Franco-Dutch carrier offered almost 11 percent less cargo capacity than 2015 due to shrinking their cargo fleet. It’s interesting to note that KLM Cargo volumes went down by almost 17 percent on a 15 percent total capacity reduction. Statistically, AF Cargo fared even worse by cargo volumes down at 8.5% but capacity reductions of “only” 4.7 %.
AF-KL are not really a reliable benchmark here as they have more or less backed out of the full freighter scene and Martinair’s capacity is being cut down almost altogether.
Assuming that the general cargo volumes in the first quarter did not vary much compared to the same period last year, then where are the big European carriers missing out?
Freight volumes in Asia are not showing a dramatic retreat during the first quarter according to figures available.
Focus should be put onto the effective cargo competitors from the Middle East. Qatar, Emirates, Etihad and by all means, Turkish Airlines, continue to show growth in the air cargo sector.
On top of this, the other two European carriers, AirBridgeCargo and Cargolux continue expanding routes and delivering increased tonnages month by month.
Is it a question of rates? - Probably not!
Is it a question of better or more flexible service? - Hard to tell!
Maybe a general feeling in the forwarding market that the European carriers are not so much committed to cargo as they were some years ago.
It will be interesting to evaluate the mid-year results.
John Mc Donagh
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