Air cargo flies high as EU airports post bumper numbers

Starting with the latest numbers from IATA, which wrap up the reporting on November’s performance, the upward trend in air cargo has been confirmed once again. Global airfreight markets registered high demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), that rose by 6.8 percent in November 2016, compared to the same month in the previous year.

“Air cargo enjoyed a strong peak season in November. And there are encouraging signs that this growth will continue into 2017,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. He also pointed to “the shipment of high-value consumer electronics and their component parts” as a factor in offsetting stagnant global trade, which IATA has warned about in previous statements.

De Juniac’s concerns are well founded. As an indicator, cross-border trade between the United States and its NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, slipped another 3.6 percent to US$93.2 billion in October 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

On the aviation side, North American freight volumes expanded 5.6 percent, year-over-year, in November 2016, according to IATA, and capacity increased by 2.6 percent, y-o-y. That suggests that air cargo is bucking the regional trend, however, de Juniac warned that it was, “critically important for the air cargo industry to continue to improve its value offering by implementing modern customer-centric processes.”

Delta Air Lines, however, failed to catch the momentum, with its December cargo volumes falling another 3.5 percent, y-o-y, and its annual losses weighing in at a dismal 9.7 percent.

Across the pond, the initial air cargo data presents a sunnier picture for the EU. After November’s strong numbers from airports throughout the bloc, Liege, which is a cargo-centric airport, has posted a 1.7 percent increase in cargo traffic for the entirety of 2016, to 660,604 tonnes – not massive but the airport seems sanguine about its prospects. “There has been sustained business growth for all our companies with significant increases for CAL, El Al and Qatar Airways”, said Luc Partoune, managing director of Liege Airport. “In a transition phase following the buyout by FedEx, TNT continues to perform well and remains our most important client.”

IATA numbers show overall European cargo volumes up 9 percent, suggesting that there are even better numbers due out in the days and weeks ahead.

On the carrier side, revenue cargo tonne kilometers at Lufthansa were up 8.3 percent, y-o-y, for December, and 1.4 percent for the year, compared to 2015, as the carrier continued to cruise on strong exports and a weak euro (that makes those exports attractive). IAG, meanwhile, saw its December cargo RTKs up 3.4 percent, y-o-y, and annual numbers up 1.2 percent over 2015.

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