European airlines report cargo declines for 2019

A number of Europe’s largest airlines suffered year-over-year declines in cargo in 2019 as freight traffic failed to keep pace with passenger growth.

Lufthansa Group carriers, which includes Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo, SWISS and Austrian Airlines, saw cargo traffic, as measured in revenue cargo tonne (metric ton) kilometers, decline 3.6% in December and 2.1% for the full year when compared with 2018. The company’s full-year cargo traffic was 10.66 billion cargo tonne kilometers. Cargo capacity for the year increased 6.3% and cargo load factor dropped 5.3 points to 61.4% for the year.

Lufthansa freight traffic in its two smallest cargo markets — Middle East/Africa and Europe — increased 20.3% and 2.6%, respectively, in 2019. But that was outweighed by a 6.7% year-over-year drop in Asia Pacific cargo traffic and a 1.2% decline in trans-Atlantic traffic to North and South America. The Americas represent Lufthansa’s largest cargo market, in terms of traffic, with 4.74 billion cargo tonne kilometers, followed closely by Asia Pacific with 4.68 billion CTKs.

The International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, LEVEL and Vueling, said its cargo traffic fell 7.8% last month from December 2018 and was down 2.4% for the full year to 5.58 billion CTKs.

Not all of the IAG carriers suffered equally, however. Iberia saw its cargo traffic decline 3.6% in December, but it increased 4.1% for the full year. Aer Lingus cargo traffic was essentially flat for the year, declining just 0.6%, but December traffic was down 20%, albeit from a small base of cargo traffic in 2018. British Airways, which has more than three times the cargo traffic of Iberia, the second-largest carrier in the group, reported a 4.2% decline in full-year cargo traffic to 4.21 billion CTKs and an 8% decline in December.

Air France KLM Group said its December traffic was down 4.1% and that its full-year traffic declined 2.2% to 8.47 billion revenue tonne kilometers. Air France’s cargo traffic was down 0.5% for the year and 1.5% in December. KLM’s cargo traffic was down 3.5% for the year and 6.3% in December.