The Freight 50: Analysis of air cargo growth in 2017

More room at the top

The dominant carriers rarely see change at the top – and that’s true for the first three on the list. Like every year in recent memory, FedEx, was again No. 1, with 16.9 billion FTKs, rising by a decent 7.6 percent over last year. FedEx was again followed by No. 2 Emirates, which was just shy of 13 billion FTKs, with an increase of 5.8 percent, while UPS Airlines stayed put in the No. 3 spot with 11.9 billion FTKs – a 6 percent improvement over 2016.

Just below the super-elite level, however, there was a little bit of churn. The combined Cathay Group (Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon) moved to the No. 4 spot, swapping places with the DHL Express Group of carriers at No. 5. Cathay’s operations rose an impressive 14 percent over the previous year, reaching 11.6 billion FTKs.

Meanwhile, the 10 billion FTK club grew from five members to seven. The constantly rising Qatar Airways, while still facing a blockade from four of its neighboring Arab nations, managed to break the 10 billion FTK barrier with a 21 percent increase to nearly 2 billion more FTKs in 2017. This was enough to leapfrog Qatar over Lufthansa to reach the No. 6 spot, just a hair’s breadth shy of DHL. The Lufthansa Group fell slightly to No. 7, despite at 12.9 percent surge to almost 10.7 billion FTKs in 2017.

Rounding out the top 10 were China Southern Group, at No. 8; Air France-KLM Group at No. 9, with a 5.5 percent rise in FTKs, and Korean Air at No. 10, with an 11.6 percent jump.

A change in accounting

Technically, the fastest riser on the list this year was the HNA Group, with a whopping 80.1 percent spike in FTKs, but that growth was due to the way we at Air Cargo World are counting the cargo. For years HNA’s Yangtze River Express did not report its numbers to IATA, so they were not reflected in the Freight 50. However, since Yangtze River changed its name to Suparna Airlines last year, they have made thier figures available, so we decided this year to inlcude Suparna’s 900 extra FTKs under the HNA Group roster (see page 20).

China Eastern Group, also was a fast riser, with a 66.7 percent jump in FTKs in 2017, but it was for the same reason as the HNA Group. Air Cargo World has now merged the China Cargo Airlines carrier’s 2.73 billion FTKs in 2017 with the China Eastern Group, along with China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines. Due to this change, the group got an artificial seven-spot boost to No. 12.

The China Southern Group got a similar artificial boost with a 48.1 percent increase, due to the inclusion of China Postal Airlines’ 3 billion FTKs of air cargo within the group, which owns 49 percent of China Postal. It was enough to catapult China Southern four spots to reach No. 8, falling just 9 million FTK’s short of the 10 billion threshold.

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