Taiwan's China Airlines threw itself into air cargo and stayed in black

TAIWANESE flag carrier China Airlines decided to tap into its strength in the cargo a year ago to stay afloat when the Covid crisis devastated air travel worldwide

14 April 2021 - 19:05
TAIWANESE flag carrier China Airlines decided to tap into its strength in the cargo a year ago to stay afloat when the Covid crisis devastated air travel worldwide.

It would 'leverage the cargo capacity' on all 18 Boeing 747-400 freighters to 'capture market share', and remain profitable amid falling fuel prices, reported London's Flight Global.

Against a backdrop of a collapse in passenger travel numbers, nearly 90 per cent of China Airlines' revenue from the three months ended June 30, 2020, came from cargo.

The carrier has since doubled down on its focus on cargo to stay afloat amid depressed passenger travel numbers, going on to eke out a profit for the full year.

It is one of the rare few carriers in the region to remain in the black for the year, in the face of an industry that has been upended by the coronavirus.

China Airlines reported an operating profit of TWD$2.18 billion (US$76.3 million) for the year ending December 31, 2020, which represented an 18 per cent decline year on year.

While passenger revenue fell 77 per cent year on year, cargo revenue rose 87 per cent, leading to a cumulative full-year revenue of TWD$115 billion.

Days after its financial results were disclosed, the airline wasted no time in driving home the message of how cargo was pivotal to its better showing for the year.

'Thanks to a strategy of prioritising cargo over passenger services, China Airlines was able to stay profitable and achieve a new milestone,' said company chairman Su-Chien Hsieh.

Shedding more light on the airline's cargo focus in an email interview with Air Cargo News sister title FlightGlobal, the airline's vice president for corporate communications Marian Lu attributed part of the airline's success to 'proper planning and configuration' of its freighter fleet.

'At the start of the pandemic, China Airlines adopted a strategy of focusing on cargo operations and began a phased adjustment of flight schedules to make flexible use of different hold configurations in each region, promote customised charter flights, as well as expand the business for high-priority, e-commerce, postage and temperature-controlled products,' she said.

It also moved quickly to tap into bellyhold cargo, as well as carrying cargo in cabin. Since April 2020, the carrier has flown more than 1,000 cargo-only flights on passenger aircraft a month.

Cargo will continue to be an area of focus this year, and the airline hopes to tap into pent-up demand in the market.

Ms Lu told FlightGlobal: 'Congestion at European and North American sea ports saw many urgent orders switched to air freight. In 2021, cargo will still benefit from a shortage of holds in the market.'

The carrier has already begun adding back capacity on its European freight network, even increasing capacity in the short term.

North American cargo flights are also being 'optimised' with a goal to add more bellyhold capacity. Within Asia-Pacific, China Airlines is also studying the feasibility of having regular cargo flights to Australia and New Zealand.

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