Although tonnage went south last year, strong yields led to stable revenues and compensated for the volume decline, the airline emphasizes in its annual report. Seen from a holistic perspective, 2022 was a satisfactory year despite decreasing demand for air cargo, the Paris and Amsterdam headquarters state. The Franco-Dutch company has set itself three major tasks for the time ahead.
In soccer, one would say it was two different halves. While the first six months were very dynamic, cargo demand increasingly softened thereafter. In total, AirFrance KLM Martinair Cargo transported 931,000 tons last year, down 11.6% compared to 2021. Revenues fell moderately by 2.4%, reaching 3.5 billion euros, but were 63% higher than in the pre-Covid year, 2019. In contrast, the load factor decreased by 18.3%, accounting for an annual average of only 52%. In plain language: every second container or pallet position in the lower or main decks of the airline remained empty.
Peak season remained without influence
Slower growth of global trade and the partial rebound of ocean freight led to decreased demand for air cargo. First signs of this trend emerged in the second quarter, but sped up in the summer months and thereafter, the carrier reports. The peak season was hardly visible as seen by the results of the fourth quarter. There, tonnage, load factors, and available capacity continued to decline year-on-year, averaging between -10% and -13% respectively. Total cargo revenues even dropping by 17.2%.
More freighters are coming
The good news, GertJan Roelands, SVP Commercial, states, is that more than 70% of the bookings in 2022 were made through the carrier’s online platform. That’s a very encouraging sign, ending the airline’s long-lasting paper era in the foreseeable future.
Looking ahead, AirFrance KLM Martinair Cargo emphasizes that, in 2022, with the signing of a ten-year cooperation agreement with the French CMA CGM Group, it had laid a strong foundation to remain a credible and strong air cargo player. Moreover, the freight carrier inked an order for four A350F destined for Air France Cargo. This was complemented by an additional order for four A350F to be operated by Martinair Cargo. The aircraft will replace Martinair’s aging B747F fleet, and will be operated by KLM Cargo.
Focusing on key topics
Besides the fleet roll over and enlargement, there are other pressing issues on the carrier’s schedule. “We will focus on key priorities such as our strategy for Pharma & Healthcare related air freight solutions. [In 2022] it has yielded strong results with a 25% increase in tonnage and doubling of overall revenue,” explains Mr. Roelands.
Sustainability is another field that AirFrance KLM Martinair Cargo is increasingly paying attention to. “We were the first airline group to introduce the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) program in the cargo market in 2021. In 2022, we partnered with over 45 customers who have purchased SAF in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Moreover, we introduced the 'goSAF' proposition, where customers have the option of offsetting the carbon footprint of a specific shipment while making a booking in myCargo.” Within the first three weeks of its introduction, customers used goSAF for over 1000 bookings to reduce the carbon footprint of those shipments, the executive recaps.
Continued investments in digitalization remain high on the agenda as well, he assures.
However, not all projects were successful in 2022, and efforts to take over the Italian start-up, ITA Airways, together with partner Delta Air Lines, fell through. The successor to Alitalia will now presumably become part of the Lufthansa Group. Furthermore, the sales partnership with CMA CGM Air Cargo is proving to be more complicated than expected. Of the company's six freighters - two B777Fs and four A330-200Fs - two have been leased to Qatar Airways Cargo, and two to DHL Express. This reduces the air capacity that CMA CGM is able to offer the market, to only two freighters. Neither of these aircraft has yet been integrated into the AirFrance KLM Martinair Cargo network.
Air Canada keeps growing its freighter fleet
Over in North America, Jon Turner, VP Cargo at Air Canada, lauded the introduction of Air Canada’s second and third freighters, and the opening of 13 new freighter markets in 2022. “Our continued expansion would not be possible without strong relationships with our industry partners and the phenomenal Air Canada Cargo team working across the globe to develop our business,” the manager stressed. He went on to say: “As we look forward and prepare to welcome four additional freighter aircraft this year, we remain laser focused on building a freighter program that complements our global passenger network and ensures shippers have access to reliable, year-round capacity:”
However, the balance sheet of the carrier’s freight arm looks sobering. In 2022, cargo revenue declined 15% year-on-year to C$1.3 billion. Particularly Pacific revenue figures dropped 39%, which is an alarming signal. Also, yield adjustments in U.S. transborder traffic and on transatlantic routes contributed to the slide. “The decline was partially offset by increased capacity and higher traffic in the Atlantic and Central and South American markets,” the carrier states in a release.
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