Mixed September results for Asia-Pacific carriers provide hope for peak season

Caryn Livingston

Asia-Pacific carriers mostly reported year-over-year traffic declines for September, but some improvements from results earlier in the year suggest that the lead-up to peak season may indicate better things ahead for the remainder of 2019. Year-over-year comparisons are also becoming less difficult for carriers with the approach to 2020 because the declines that have hampered cargo in 2019 began during the second half of last year. Notable among the Asia-Pacific carriers in September were EVA Air and China Southern, which reported some of their strongest cargo results for the year during the month.

For a closer look at carrier results:

Taiwan-based EVA Air’s cargo traffic declined again in September despite increasing slightly in August for the carrier’s first positive y-o-y results of 2019. September traffic at the carrier fell 1.55% y-o-y to about 301 million freight tonne kilometers (FTKS). Despite the decrease, September was the second-highest month for traffic in 2019, suggesting that the lead-up to peak season may see better months ahead for air cargo to finish out the year. Year-to-date, traffic for EVA Air Cargo is down 5.23% to 2.53 billion FTKs.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon reported a 5.3% y-o-y decline in cargo and mail FTKs to 960 million FTKs – less than the 7.0% year-to-date decline to 8.3 billion FTKs, but still indicative of weakness in the market. Meanwhile, tonnage declined 4.4% y-o-y in September to 172,600 tonnes, and 6.8% year-to-date to 1.5 million tonnes.

Of the cargo business, Cathay Pacific Group’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said cargo showed expected signs of improvement from August with the move toward peak season. “Most markets saw a better month-on-month performance and we mounted a number of charter operations on top of our scheduled services to meet added demand for air freight coinciding with the release of new electronic products,” he said. “However, the overall market remains challenging and competitive with tonnage carried and load factor for the year to date still significantly below the same period last year.”

Guangzhou-based China Southern’s traffic increased by 0.6% y-o-y during September, to 679 million FTKs. September traffic was also up 5.68% from August. September gains were due to stronger domestic traffic, which was up 8.78% y-o-y, while international traffic declined 1.92% y-o-y. Tonnage during September also increased by 5.44% y-o-y, to about 166,500 tonnes. Year-to-date, China Southern’s traffic is down by 0.23%, while tonnage is virtually flat year-to-date.

Beijing-based Air China’s cargo traffic for September decreased 7.9% y-o-y to 395 million FTKs, while year-to-date traffic is down 3.5% to 3.5 billion FTKs. The decrease is primarily due to struggling international traffic for the carrier, which was down 10.0% for September. Tonnage is also down, by 5.4% for September and 1.9% year-to-date.

Singapore Airlines’ cargo traffic for September fell 9.7% to 537 million FTKs, and tonnage also declined 7.4% to 103,000 tonnes.

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