The top 50 cargo carriers
It’s been a rough 2011.
In the past eight months, the world has watched in horror as a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami ravaged Japan in March, a series of tornados devastated the Southern U.S. in April, and the eruption of Iceland’s Grímsvötn volcano in May halted air traffic. In an ongoing crisis, residents of the Horn of Africa face mass starvation and famine.
Adding to this bleak picture are the economic instability and political unrest experienced in many parts of the world. It has been so bad, in fact, that many sectors have lost significant profitability and have seen cuts in every corner.
Unfortunately, the airfreight sector is not immune to these hardships. In addition to contending with the flight implications of the aforementioned natural disasters, carries have lost considerable market share to other modes of transport. In fact, seafreight and trucking have emerged as less costly options for budget-burdened freight forwarders, although the tradeoff in speed is a clear disadvantage.
Despite these concerns, the airfreight sector is still a viable mainstay in the logistics industry, IATA officials contend. It’s a point illustrated in the association’s list of the most prolific cargo carriers in 2010 (click here for the list, arranged by freight-tonnes carried), a ranking taken at an equally trying time for the air cargo industry. FedEx, which took top honors, led the pack in both the international and domestic categories, transporting a combined total of 6.94 million tonnes last year. Trailing FedEx were UPS Airlines and Korean Air, carrying 4.5 million tonnes and 1.8 million tonnes in 2010, respectively. Emirates and Cathay Pacific Airways ranked fourth and fifth among cargo carriers last year, posting respective tonnages of 1.77 million tonnes and 1.57 million tonnes.
IATA representatives point to the strong growth in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Latin American sectors as highlights of last year’s air cargo climate. This growth speaks volumes about the strength of the airfreight sector amid a challenging global landscape, industry insiders say. It also causes experts to take a closer look at what makes certain carriers stand out from the rest. Although other attributes are cited, the top five carriers of 2010 share three main goals: reducing fuel consumption, investing in sustainable technologies and adhering to everchanging security regulations.
If there’s a common refrain among carriers, it’s the increasing burden of fuel prices. With the cost of oil exceedingly high, carriers have seen their financial statements take a nosedive. In fact, according to IATA data, airlines spent $139 billion on fuel last year, a $14 billion rise from 2009. Fuel also comprised more than onequarter of carriers’ total operating costs in 2010.
Fuel is why carriers are so concerned about maintaining a full payload, UPS Director of International Airfreight Marketing Scott Aubuchon explains. “The primary reason UPS has been able to stay profitable despite rising fuel costs is efficiency and technology,” Aubuchon says. “With our access to such a large network of planes and transportation modes, we are not forced to fly half-full cargo planes.”
He also cites UPS’ investment in Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast technology on all of its B757 and B767 craft as key to its profitability. Crediting this aircraftspacing technology with saving 1 million gallons of fuel in a year, Aubuchon says that UPS was the world’s first carrier to deploy it.