FedEx still world's top cargo carrier, Emirates is in 2nd place, says IATA
FEDEX has continued to hold on to the top spot as the world's busiest cargo airline with volumes up 3
FEDEX has continued to hold on to the top spot as the world's busiest cargo airline with volumes up 3.8 per cent year on year to 17.5 billion freight tonne kilometres (FTK) in 2018, according to the latest IATA World Air Transport Statistics report.
The express operator is in the process of upgrading its fleet, having ordered an extra 12 Boeing 777 freighters and 12 B767Fs last year. As of May 31, its fleet comprised 681 aircraft compared with 670 aircraft in 2018 and 657 in 2017.
As far as pure cargo airlines are concerned, Emirates topped the rankings in spite of demand remaining flat at 12.7 billion FTK, reported London's Air Cargo News.
Against a backdrop of weakening market conditions, the airline has downsized its freighter fleet from 15 to 11 Boeing 777F aircraft over the past two years, all leased from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.
Emirates SkyCargo vice president Nabil Sultan said 'every year has its own challenges' with 2018 hit by higher fuel prices and the impact of the dollar currency exchange in Europe, China and the Indian sub-continent customer base.
According to its own figures, the carrier saw cargo tonnage rise by 1.4 per cent in 2018, which Mr Sultan attributed to the carrier's diversification of its product portfolio over the past three to four years. One immediate result of which was a 14 per cent jump in pharma goods to 75,000 tonnes.
'So far, utilisation has been good and we continue to operate decent load factors,' he said. 'However, looking at the economy, over the coming year we might have to re-evaluate what will happen to production and if you have to reduce some of the capacity, then we will definitely do that.'
Qatar Airways expanded its fleet and network and recorded the second highest growth rate of airlines on the chart with a cargo traffic spike of 15.4 per cent to 12.7 billion FTK, helping the carrier overtake UPS into third place on the list.
Earlier this month the airline formalised an order of five Boeing 777 freighters, raising its B777F capacity by one-fifth.
The company has already added one B777F to its fleet this year, while five more are due to arrive in the coming six months. It has also returned three Airbus 330 freighters that it had on lease.
'This order will enable Qatar Airways Cargo to grow to become the number one global cargo carrier this year in both fleet and network,' Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker said.
Qatar Airways currently operates 23 freighters, including 16 B777Fs, five A330Fs and two B747-8Fs.
In terms of its freighter network, Macau was added last year, while it launched services to Almaty and Guadalajara this year. It will also commence three new routes: Hanoi to Dallas, Chicago to Singapore, and Singapore - Los Angeles - Mexico City.
Etihad Cargo slipped down six places on the list to number 25 as cargo traffic fell by 19.3 per cent year on year to 3.5 billion FTK.
Managing director cargo Abdulla Mohamed Shadid explained that in the light of changing market conditions, the airline had focused too heavily on creating a global footprint and not enough on developing other key areas of the business, such as the technology required to improve business processes.
Etihad exited its A330F fleet last year and now operates B777Fs which are deployed mainly on core markets like Europe and India, Vietnam and China, complementing the bellyhold capacity that feeds 90 destinations including North America, Africa and Australia.
With reduced capacity helping Etihad eliminate 'bad revenue', the smaller footprint has enabled the carrier Etihad to fine tune its network and add Singapore as a new route and boost Shanghai frequencies.