Frankfurt air freight growth lags rivals

Frankfurt air freight growth lags rivals

Frankfurt airport’s freight traffic increased just 1.7 percent in 2014, lagging growth at its main European rivals, as pilots at Lufthansa, its biggest customer, staged nine strikes through the year.

Europe’s largest air freight hub closed the year with throughput of 2.165 million metric tons of cargo last year after a 1.4 percent decline in December to 176,241 tonnes, due to industrial action and weather-related flight cancellations.

The airport managed to outperform its major freight airline, Lufthansa Cargo, which saw 2014 traffic dip 2.7 percent to 1.67 million tonnes.

Despite the lower traffic, Frankfurt is expected to maintain its top European ranking as its closest rival, Paris Charles de Gaulle, which has yet to publish 2014 cargo figures, suffered an 11 percent slump in traffic in September due to a two week long strike by Air France pilots.

 Europe’s third largest cargo airport, Amsterdam Schiphol, grew freight traffic by 6.5 percent year-on-year in 2014 to 1.6 million tonnes, stretching its lead over fourth-ranked London Heathrow, which posted a 5.3 percent increase to 1.5 million tonnes.

Cargo will post modest growth in 2015, said Schiphol Group CEO Jos Nijhuis.

Schiphol’s European ranking appeared to be at risk after Air France-KLM, its leading cargo airline, announced plans to reduce its 13-strong freighter fleet to five aircraft by the end of 2016, with the biggest cut at Martinair, its Amsterdam-based all-cargo unit.

But the Dutch airport said the impact will be minimal as KLM will still be operating sixteen 747-400 passenger/cargo “combis” and freight is increasingly being flown in the bellies of passenger aircraft.

Belgian airports also posted strong cargo growth in 2014, with Liege up 5.3 percent at almost 591,000 tonnes, and Brussels 5.6 percent higher at 454,000 tonnes.

Liege attributed its strong performance to increased traffic at TNT Airways, a unit of express carrier TNT Express, Ethiopian Cargo and Israeli carrier CAL Cargo Air Lines and ANA Airline Management’s decision to switch the base of its freighter fleet from Ostend airport.

Brussels credited its growth to a “significant” increase in belly cargo and winning the world’s first IATA certification for the transport of temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.