Lufthansa Cargo managed to increase traffic in November despite ongoing strikes by pilots, while its leading European rivals posted lower volumes as they prepare to downsize their freighter operations.
The German all-cargo carrier transported 156,000 metric tons of freight last month, up 0.8 percent on November 2013 with 0.4 percent less capacity. That helped boosts its load factor by 1.3 percentage points to an industry high of 73.9 percent. The increase still left traffic for the first 11 months of the year down 2.7 percent at 1.54 million tonnes.
The parent Lufthansa group, which includes Austrian Airlines and Swiss, grew traffic 1 percent in November to 178,000 tonnes, driven by a 4.6 percent increase on its North/South America network to 56,000 tonnes that offset a sluggish 0.7 percent rise in Asia/Pacific shipments to 51,000 tonnes.
Air France-KLM, Europe’s largest cargo carrier by revenue, saw November freight traffic shrink by 3.6 percent and the load factor retreat by 2.3 points to 66.4 percent.
The latest monthly decline comes as the Franco-Dutch carrier prepares to shrink its freighter fleet to five aircraft in 2016 from 13 in 2013. Martinair, the airline’s Amsterdam-based cargo unit, is drawing up plans to phase out six Md-11Fs in 2015.
IAG, the merged British Airways-Iberia carrier, is also losing market share with November traffic slumping 7.7 percent for a year-to-date decline of 3.5 percent as a double-digit decline at the United Kingdom airline outweighed a strong recovery at its Spanish partner.
BA’s cargo volume declined 11.1 percent in November for a 4.1 percent drop in the first 11 months of the year, while Iberia’s traffic surged 8.8 percent for a year-to-date increase of 0.4 percent.
European airlines’ retreat from freighter operations in the face of increased competition from passenger aircraft with increased belly hold capacities is gathering pace with Finnair Cargo discontinuing its MD-11F flights between Helsinki and Hong Kong on December 20.
“The financial result over the past year does not encourage and lead towards sustainable freighter operations over the next couple of critical years,” said Mikko Turtiainen, vice president global sales at Finnair Cargo.
Finnair Cargo will continue to serve Hong Kong with daily Airbus A340 passenger flights and will expand its European feeder network that currently operates freighter and wide body flights to and from Brussels. The airline said it plans to double its cargo belly capacity by 2020.