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Trading places

Air cargo between Europe and Asia is performing strongly as economic recovery in the Eurozone bounces back, but as Stan Abbott finds, there is also room for cautious realism

With routes linking Europe and Asia accounting for about 20% of global cargo traffic, strong growth in this trade lane is welcome news for the sector. All major Europe-Asia carriers have reported strong growth across the past 18 months, so cautious optimism is stimulating new investment. The only blot on the horizon is a note of caution around the threat of US-inspired trade wars, and the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process in the UK.


There have been several spectacular performances at both ends of the trade lane – London Heathrow cargoes were up more than 10% in 2017 to 1.7 million tonnes; Shanghai’s Pactl cargo terminal up 12% to 1.87 million tonnes; and Moscow’s Sheremetyevo, up some 23%, albeit from a lower base. With strong growth at Munich, and new records set in Vietnam and South Korea, it might be easy to overlook the fact that the growth to and from all individual Europe-Asia markets has been significant and based on similarly firm foundations.


Among carriers responding to new market buoyancy is Lufthansa Cargo, which serves the trade lane through a combination of dedicated cargo services and belly cargo on its scheduled passenger network. “We have steadily increased our capacity to and from Asia-Pacific over recent years,” says Frank Naeve, Vice President Asia-Pacific at Lufthansa Cargo. “This includes significantly increasing capacity in China, with additional freighter frequencies in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.”


A new route to the western Chinese city of Chengdu also opened in May, with Boeing 777 freighters twice a week and Naeve adds: “We have also invested heavily in Japan, with additional capacity in Tokyo as well as starting twice weekly freighter services to Osaka. In addition, we have a significant freighter presence in Korea as well as India.”


Cargo carriage in the market is split roughly 60:40 between dedicated aircraft and bellyhold, compared with 50:50 on the airline’s network worldwide.

At Shanghai, some 80% of all cargo is transported on 11 dedicated schedules per week. By selling the belly capacity of Lufthansa Group airlines, also including Austrian, Eurowings, and from September 2018, Brussels Airlines, the Group serves the European market from four hubs – at Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Brussels – and offers some trucking feeder services, although Naeve notes that this is of declining attraction as capacity on more direct alternatives increases. >>


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