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Freight volumes among Asian airlines vary greatly

By Hpanchal on January 20, 2012

News about soft freight volumes out of the Asia-Pacific has garnered headlines lately, but it appears that the phenomenon hasn’t affected all carriers equally. Cathay Pacific Airways, for instance, saw cargo traffic decline rapidly throughout 2011, while Japan’s All Nippon Airlines reported freight volumes on par with 2010 levels.

Despite the March earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan, cargo traffic for ANA remained steady throughout 2011. September was an especially strong month from a domestic standpoint, with the carrier posting 3.6 percent, year-over-year, growth. Domestic traffic in November waned slightly, however, falling 1.2 percent, year-over-year.

Even so, ANA’s international freight volumes remained high throughout the year. The carrier reported 12 percent, year-over-year, growth in April and an 8.7 percent, year-over-year, traffic surge in June. Volumes declined marginally in October and November, however, with ANA posting a 0.3 percent, year-over-year, loss in both months. (ANA’s December traffic report hasn’t been released.)

Cargo traffic for Cathay Pacific hasn’t been as robust. In addition to contending with sluggish freight volumes in recent months, December proved to be especially challenging for Cathay Pacific and wholly owned subsidiary Dragonair. The airlines reported a combined, year-over-year, cargo drop of 11.9 percent and saw low factor fall 9.6 percent from December 2010.

Compounding this loss was the fact that capacity rose by 3.9 percent in December, according to a press release. James Woodrow, Cathay Pacific’s general manager of cargo sales and marketing, said these figures are even more disheartening considering the time of year.

“The traditional year-end peak for our cargo business simply didn’t happen and our December figures were a disappointing end to what was a challenging year overall,” he said in a statement.

From a yearly perspective, cargo tonnage for Cathay Pacific fell 8.6 percent, year-over-year, on a capacity increase of 6.9 percent. Cargo and mail tonne kilometres flown also deceased in 2011, falling 5.2 percent from 2010 levels.

Woodrow isn’t convinced that the situation in 2012 will be any different. “Demand out of our key markets in Hong Kong and Mainland China remain soft, and there is no sign of any upturn in prospect as we move into 2012,” he stated. Still, all hope isn’t lost, he said.

“On the positive side, we have been seeing good contributions from recently added destinations such as Chongqing, Chengdu and Zaragoza, and we will continue to seek out new business opportunities,” Woodrow said in a statement.

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