Barcelona is back helping to strengthen Europe

Jansen Stafford, Regional Head of Cargo Europe

The market has so far been healthy in 2024, in fact, stronger than I thought it was going to be. It’s softening a bit now, but then that’s the same everywhere and shows a return to normality. What is pleasing is that we’ve been handling a lot of high-quality, special-solutions cargo, which is what we wanted and what we’ve been able to attract. On that, I should quickly mention that we are about to relaunch our Cathay Expert solution for outsized or fragile shipments, so keep an eye out for information on that soon. Back to the market. Should it maintain these levels through the summer, we’ll probably be looking to a stronger back half of the year, but this is crystal ball stuff given the potential headwinds from geopolitical and economic events.

In Europe, we’re delighted to be welcoming Barcelona back to the network on 17 June. This will be a summer seasonal passenger service using an Airbus A350-900, with flights leaving Hong Kong just after midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, arriving back the morning of the next day.

It’s a positive addition, because Barcelona tends to offer pharmaceuticals and perishables, and there is a definite market for air cargo around the region out to Valencia and around to Bilbao, and it will be good to tap into that again. More importantly, in combination with the thrice-weekly Cathay flights to Madrid, it means that there are now six flights a week into Spain. Cathay Cargo will operate 32 freighters and more than 310 passenger flight pairs to Europe in June.

Europe is still led in tonnage terms by Frankfurt, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Cathay Pacific passenger operations this year. The market there is in good shape, and we operate four freighters a week. It’s always been the strongest European destination by tonnage, because it has the capacity in combination with the passenger flights. While there has always been a local market, as outlined by my colleague, Michael Spiegel, Area Cargo Manager, the capacity is allocated across the continent because trucking between ports to access capacity is such a feature in Europe. Our first cargo operations in Europe started in 1981 in Frankfurt in a joint venture with Lufthansa. Today, we still partner with Lufthansa Cargo and, since 2022, Swiss WorldCargo in a joint business agreement.

The air-cargo industry has changed a lot since those early days, particularly in handling and handing over shipments in the warehouse. Cathay Cargo Terminal continues to lead the charge by eliminating paperwork and introducing digitalisation to modernise warehouse processes. This year, working with Airport Authority Hong Kong, it has introduced an app-based collection process for agents in Hong Kong. This is not only a boost to Cathay’s wider sustainability efforts, and I’m delighted to report that Cathay Cargo won Sustainable Cargo Airline of the year 2024 – Asia Region for the second consecutive year at the Freightweek 2024 Sustainability Awards, but also makes the process quicker, easier and more secure for customers. Cathay Cargo Terminal has also introduced e-payments in Hong Kong and at the Cathay Cargo Terminal in Dongguan, where the take-up has been universal.

Finally we look at our subsidiary Air Hong Kong’s fleet modernisation, and DHL Express’s extended hub at Hong Kong. It just goes to show that while some of the ports we operate to and from are part of our legacy, we will always strive to improve.