Nearly all global airlines facing systematic volume drops

February cargo throughput results for the world’s airports are still being finalized, but early analysis indicates year-over-year drops in cargo volumes in Europe and Asia, while American airports are close to flat with February 2018 traffic. Almost all airports worldwide posted year-over-year declines in volume for February and declines or very modest growth overall for 2019.

The impacts of an uncertain global trade environment, volatile economic performance across multiple markets and Brexit are likely finally materializing as weakness in air cargo figures early this year. Airports in Asia were hit especially hard, in tandem with major Asian carriers that also reported steep declines in cargo demand – by as much as 25 percent – for the month of February, our sister site Cargo Facts reported.

Europe looking at “no deal” Brexit as critical factor

In Europe, the likelihood of a “no-deal” Brexit is not inspiring confidence in local airfreight markets, but most airports in the region are posting limited declines despite the turmoil. Airports in the Americas, meanwhile, are posting mixed results, while attributing most declines to trans-Pacific and international cargo volumes.

Despite weak figures, Asian logistics providers continue investing in construction of new infrastructure at airports in Vietnam and China. To learn more about the development of airfreight and logistics infrastructure in Asia, join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2019, hosted by our sister publication, Cargo Facts, in Shanghai on April 15-17.

To look more closely at February performance for some of the world’s largest cargo airports: 

Asia Pacific 

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) reported its February cargo handle dropped 12.2 percent y-o-y to 96,287 tonnes – comprised of 90,036 tonnes of freight and 6,251 tonnes of mail. CAN attributed the year over year decrease to declines in both inbound international and outbound cargo volumes at the airport. Inbound cargo volumes decreased 7.4 percent y-o-y in February, compounded by a decrease of 16.4 percent y-o-y in outbound cargo volumes for the month. For the full year, CAN’s cargo handle fell 1.1 percent.

South Korea-based Incheon Airport’s (ICN’s) cargo handle fell 10.2 percent y-o-y in February to 182,842 tonnes. For 2019 year-to-date, ICN’s cargo handle was down 8.2 percent y-o-y to 400,315 tonnes.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) handled 196,500 tonnes of cargo, resulting in a major drop in y-o-y February cargo volumes of 17.5 percent. International cargo volumes fell 16.6 percent for the month, while domestic cargo volumes fell by 29.0 percent. Year-to-date, cargo volumes are down by 12.0 percent.

Singapore Changi (SIN) reported its February cargo handle down 8.3 percent y-o-y to around 140,000 tonnes. Year-to-date, SIN’s handle was down about 3.1 percent to around 310,000 tonnes.


Amsterdam Schiphol Airport’s (AMS’) cargo handle fell 13.5 percent y-o-y in February, to 115,797 tonnes. For the full year, AMS’s cargo handle fell 11.3 percent to 238,440 tonnes. AMS attributed the decline to a decrease in both inbound and outbound cargo – inbound cargo fell 18.2 percent y-o-y, while outbound cargo fell 8.2 percent y-o-y in February.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) reported a 3.4 percent decrease in its y-o-y cargo handle for February, to 161,366 tonnes. For the full year, FRA’s cargo handle fell 3.8 percent to 324,698 million tonnes.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) reported a 3.8 percent decrease y-o-y in its February cargo handle, to 128,065 tonnes. Volumes at the airport were down 2.8 percent for the full year, compared to the same period in 2018.

Vienna Airport’s (VIE’s) cargo handle fell 1.7 percent y-o-y in February, to 20,219 tonnes. For the full year, VIE’s air cargo handle declined 2.3 percent to 41,445 tonnes, compared to the same period the year prior.


Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) reported that its cargo volumes increased 1.1 percent y-o-y in February and reached 88,845 tonnes in throughput. Year-to-date, cargo volumes are up 4.8 percent at the airport, continuing the airport’s growth in January.

Ontario International Airport (ONT) handled around 51,286 tonnes of cargo, resulting in a 2.6 percent decrease in February cargo volumes over the year prior. Freight and mail volumes both contributed to the monthly decline in throughput, with declines of 2.6 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. ONT’s cargo handle year-to-date, on the other hand, increased 1.7 percent y-o-y to about 111,818 tonnes.

Louisville’s (SDF’s) cargo handle fell 1.4 percent y-o-y in February to 410,452 tonnes. Declines in both international and domestic freight, parcels and cargo volumes both contributed to the overall slowdown in cargo at the airport – international volumes fell 5.3 percent and domestic volumes fell 0.8 percent. For 2019 year-to-date, SDF’s cargo handle was down 0.5 percent to about 882,075 tonnes.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s (SEA’s) cargo handle fell 0.1 percent y-o-y in February, to 29,074 tonnes. SEA’s air cargo handle rose 3.2 percent to 63,098 tonnes, compared to the same period the year prior. In February, domestic cargo increased by 8.1 percent and international cargo volumes declined by 10.6 percent. Year to date, volumes to and from Asia are down 10.6 percent, while volumes to and from Europe are up about 2.0 percent.