September freight traffic slowed significantly at Hong Kong International Airport, with cargo volumes dropping 6.1 percent, year-over-year. The airport, which bested Memphis International Airport as the world’s busiest cargo airport in 2010, handled only 325,000 tonnes last month.
HKIA officials blame the September slowdown on sluggish export and import volumes worldwide, with traffic diminishing 10 percent and 6 percent, year-over-year, respectively. Europe, North America and Taiwan were particularly affected by this occurrence, as all three regions reported double-digit cargo losses in September.
Unfortunately, these numbers don’t surprise Lilian Chan, executive director of Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd., which is located at HKIA. “It was unlikely that 2011 would match 2010, and the year began much as we predicted,” she stated. “Our traffic levels are still above the pre-recession peak of 2008. But there is no doubt that throughput is now being impacted by global uncertainty, fueling soft consumer demand for non-essentials.”
Despite these losses, transshipments rose in September, growing 5 percent, year-over-year. Passenger traffic also surged in September, highlighted by HKIA’s 7-percent, year-over year growth. Passenger volumes in and out of Southeast Asia performed particularly well, an HKIA spokesman revealed.
Cargo loss amid passenger growth seems to be a year-long phenomenon. Flight movements and passenger volumes at HKIA surged 5.8 percent, year-over-year, in the first three quarters of 2011 despite a 3.9-percent drop in freight traffic. Although the cargo drop is arguably disheartening, Airport Authority Hong Kong CEO Stanley Hui Hon-chung is encouraged by HKIA’s commercial operations.
“In addition to receiving more air passengers, I’m also delighted to see airlines choose to operate new generation aircraft at HKIA, which reflects the significance of HKIA as a regional and international aviation hub,” he said in a statement. Hui Hon-chung points to Cargolux’s deployment of Boeing’s new 747-8 freighter on its Luxembourg-to-Hong Kong routes as a manifestation of this.
Cargolux isn’t the only carrier growing its capacity to HKIA, however. Later this month, Japan’s All Nippon Airways will operate a charter flight from its Tokyo hub to HKIA using the world’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Hui Hon-chung revealed.