April was a challenging month for airfreight, as evidenced by Cathay Pacific and wholly owned subsidiary Dragonair’s 11 percent, year-over-year, decrease in cargo volumes. The carriers also reported a marked drop in capacity and freight tonne kilometers flown, seeing declines of 6.8 percent and 13.7 percent, year-over-year, respectively.
These weren’t the only areas of disappointment for the carriers, however. According to a press release, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair’s cargo and mail load factor totaled 63.3 percent last month, a 5-percent drop from April 2011.
Cathay Pacific and Dragonair’s tonnage was also down from a four-month perspective. The carriers saw freight volumes plunge 10.7 percent, year-over-year, in the first four months of 2012 amid a capacity decline of 3.3 percent.
March, however, proved to be the strongest month for Cathay Pacific and Dragonair so far this year, with the carriers transporting 144,140 tonnes of freight and mail. James Woodrow, Cathay Pacific’s manager of cargo sales and marketing, attributed the March cargo surge to increased shipments of high-tech goods from Mainland China.
Unfortunately, Woodrow said, “demand softened again out of our key markets in April,” which resulted in Cathay Pacific and Dragonair only carrying 124,531 tonnes of cargo and mail last month. “The general air cargo market remains soft,” Woodrow added, “especially to Europe, though intra-Asia traffic is holding up better, helped by a recent expansion of the passenger network in the region.”
Moving forward, Woodrow said, Cathay Pacific will continue to stay profitable by slashing capacity on certain long-haul passenger routes, such as flights to Europe, and retiring less fuel-efficient craft. After all, he said, “Fuel prices continue to be a major concern on these long-haul routes.”
Still, Woodrow told Air Cargo World, increased fuel prices have had one positive impact on the aviation sector — they’ve accelerated the development of modern, fuel-efficient planes; “this being the only effective way to manage consistently high fuel costs,” Woodrow said.
He said Cathay Pacific has “taken the lead” in this area, mentioning the carrier’s order for 10 Boeing 747-8Fs — five of which it currently operates — and eight Boeing 777-200 freighters. These aircraft will complement Cathay’s fleet of six Boeing 747-400 extended-range freighters, Woodrow said.
Woodrow expects more carriers to deploy fuel-efficient craft in the future, projecting that such actions will have a deep environmental impact. “So the silver lining of these high fuel prices is that our industry will be forced to modernize, and we will significantly reduce our environmental impact per kilogram,” he told Air Cargo World. “As technology continues to improve post-2020, we have a good chance of reaching our goal of reducing our CO2 emissions on an absolute basis.”