Volumes flatline at Europe’s major air cargo hubs

Source: The Loadstar
Date: 20th September 2023

The stagnant air cargo market continues to be reflected in the latest traffic figures released by two of Europe’s leading hubs.

At Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), cargo throughput totaled 10,344 tonnes last month, down 5.6% on August 2022.

A deeper dive into the figures reveals a 2.2% fall in volumes to and from Asia, by far the airport’s most important geographical region for traffic. All other regions, apart from the Middle East (+3%), were in negative territory year-on-year, including North America (-14.6%) and Africa (-18.6%).

The head of cargo at Schiphol put a positive spin on the traffic decline, indicating that despite a difficult period for the global industry, the airport’s volumes were starting to stabilise.

“More freighters would like to fly to Schiphol but our slots are full and ad hoc slots have decreased significantly compared to last year – this is the biggest factor behind the tonnage loss.”

“However, our limited freight slots have also driven us to become more stable than other European hubs, shifting our focus to streamlining and focusing our operations.”

“We remain focused on air cargo and are planning measures to secure freighter slots to ensure they cannot be swapped into passenger slots,” the head of cargo at Schiphol explained

The head of cargo at Schiphol added: “We continue to work together with the Dutch air cargo community and invest heavily in our new Port Community System to make it the state of the art as we look to become an efficient multimodal hub for European cargo, focusing on quality over quantity.”

Meanwhile, Frankfurt Airport (FRA) handled approximately 156,800 tonnes of cargo last month, up by 1.2% year-on-year. However, the increase was “mainly due to the capacity-reducing measures implemented by several cargo airlines last year”, and when compared with pre-pandemic levels was down 9.4%.

Tonnage on freighter aircraft was up slightly (+0.8%) but 10.1% lower than pre-pandemic. As a result of an increase in passenger flights, belly load volume was back to about 92% of the August 2019 level while the proportion of cargo transported on the freighter and passenger aircraft was roughly 60-40% respectively, a ratio similar to pre-pandemic.

In its regional analysis, Fraport noted that “due to the continuous operation of pure freighter aircraft there was a substantial increase in overall traffic to and from Qatar (+44.6%), Saudi-Arabia (+38.3%) and Turkey (+6.0%) compared to last year” – boosting Middle East traffic by 14.6%.

The Far East trade declined by 6.4% year-on-year, including China (-7.6%), South Korea (-11.8%) and Japan (-18.4%), in contrast to India (+7.8%), Hong Kong (+13%) and Vietnam (+47.8%).

North America cargo declined by 3% but was still 1.8% above pre-pandemic levels, while Latin America was up 13.1%, largely due to a strong growth in the Mexico trade.

Africa cargo, meanwhile, dropped 10.9% and was around 50% below the 2019 level for this region.

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