These days a telescope may well be an airline manager's favorite tool to view the Pacific market. A closer perspective is far from pleasant. The traditional mini-peak associated with Chinese New Year was almost non-existent this year. Last year's peak season did materialize, after all, but two months later and much shorter than had been anticipated.
It seems the Asian Tigers are really only kittens these days and the carriers that once scrambled over each other to push freighters into Shanghai are quietly putting planes into other markets, one or two at a time.
Just look at the business from Japan to Hong Kong--once a source of strength connecting two of the Pacific Rim's strongest air cargo markets, the lane is lagging."Japan has been really slow. It's down' about 7 percent year on year," said Jim Friedel, president of Northwest Airlines Cargo.
"Korea to the U.S. has been slow. It's down 15 percent year on year," he said.
Northwest's daily freighters to Taipei are still doing okay, he said. "True, a lot of business has moved to China, but Taiwan is a robust and growing economy. It's not the roaring market that it was during the dot-com years," said Friedel.
However, Taiwan's exports grew a slower-than-projected 5.5 percent in April, as U.S.-bound shipments fell for the second consecutive month. They declined 6.7 percent in April, following a 6.1 percent decrease the previous month. In part, this is due to a growing focus on intra-Asian trade, but both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank recently predicted a slowdown in Taiwan's exports, driven by weaker U.S. sales.
Even Hong Kong, whose fortunes are buoyed by the torrent of Chinese exports produced in the Pearl River Delta's manufacturing zone, saw a slowdown in the first quarter after 2006 had produced a record 3.58 million tons of throughput at the airport, up 5.2 percent from the previous year. In the first two months of 2007, Cathay Pacific recorded a 0.7 percent decline in tonnage, while the airport's overall total went up a modest 1.5 percent.
Source: Air Cargo World, http://aircargoworld.com
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