Nearly a six-month long plunge in cargo traffic has leveled out in May for major European carriers, giving hope to earlier sentiments that the global economic contagion will not get any worse.
Lufthansa Cargo, EuropeÃ¢â‚¬™s second largest scheduled cargo airline, carried 125,000 tonnes of freight in May, a 9.1 per cent decline from the same period a year ago that left traffic in the first five months of 2009 down 21.4 per cent at 566,000 tonnes.
The May decline is a marked improvement on the steep declines earlier in the year which peaked at 26.7 per cent in April on sharply lower German exports to North America and the Asia/Pacific region. Lufthansa CargoÃ¢â‚¬™s sales fell, however, by 15.7 per cent in May from a year ago, as yields remained under pressure. Capacity was nine per cent lower than a year ago, trimming the load factor by 4.8 percentage points, to 60.3 per cent.
The Lufthansa groupÃ¢â‚¬™s overall freight traffic, including Swiss World Cargo, fell by 10 per cent in May to 141,000 tonnes from 158,000 tonnes a year earlier. Volume in the first five months of the year was 21 per cent lower at 645,000 tonnes.
The Americas network recovered from a 35.8 per cent plunge in April shipments, with May volume down 13.6 per cent at 39,000 tonnes. Asia Pacific traffic, which fell 25.6 per cent in April, declined by 11.8 per cent in May to 38,000 tonnes.
Short haul European traffic declined 10.2 per cent in May to 49,000 tonnes, while Middle East/Africa traffic recovered from a 3.5 per cent drop in April to grow 9.2 per cent to 14,000 tonnes in May.
Meanwhile, Air France-KLM, EuropeÃ¢â‚¬™s biggest cargo airline, saw its freight traffic, including its all-cargo subsidiary Martinair, stabilise with only a one per cent decline in May from a year ago while capacity rose two per cent. The load factor declined by 1.9 points to 62.9 per cent.
Excluding Martinair, freight traffic fell 18 per cent from May 2008 on a 14.1 per cent reduction in capacity which resulted in a three point decline in the load factor to 61.8 per cent.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This data confirms the signs of stabilisation witnessed in cargo activity in recent months as well as the progressive adjustment of capacity to demand,Ã¢â‚¬Â the carrier said. At the height of the slump in January, Air France-KLMÃ¢â‚¬™s cargo volume crashed 23.2 per cent from the previous year.
Traffic on the Americas network declined 10.5 per cent in May, while Asia Pacific shipments were 17.5 per cent lower. The Middle East/Africa routes remained buoyant, with traffic surging 45 per cent year-on-year.
Air France-KLM trimmed capacity by 13 percent during the April-October summer season and grounded some of its freighters. It also delayed the delivery of two Boeing 777 freighters, originally scheduled for later this year, to sometime between 2010 and 2012.
British AirwaysÃ¢â‚¬™ cargo business also stabilised, with traffic in May down 9.5 per cent from a year earlier, comparedwith a 14.8 per cent decline in April.