Mainland air carriers suffered their worst cargo volume drop of the year in November as consumers in the US and Europe cut back on their spending, the South China Morning Post reported. Mainland Chinese carriers saw 11.3 per cent less cargo in November compared with a year earlier, following a 3.1 per cent drop in October. Shipments bound for Hong Kong and Macau decreased the most with volume dropping 22.4 per cent. Hong Kong, as a key re-export hub for mainland goods before they are shipped overseas, also suffered from the drop in air cargo volume. A Cathay Pacific Airways executive said exports from Hong Kong were expected to dip more than 20 per cent last month, a bigger drop than the 15.4 per cent in November. “The weakening in air shipments will continue to haunt us because demand for high-end products, such as electronics and high-fashion goods, is withering,” said Chen Daqian, the vice-president of China Cargo Airlines, which carries 18 per cent of air cargo from and bound for Shanghai. China Cargo Air operates 11 freighters, including Boeing 747s, MD 11s and Airbus 300s. Mr Chen said China Cargo had trimmed services on US, European and regional routes amid weaker demand. China Cargo Air and Air China Cargo, the mainland’s biggest cargo airline, might try to combine some services to save on costs, he said. Hit hard by the deepening global financial crisis, Chinese airlines posted a net loss of CNY7.7 billion ($1.13 billion) in the first 11 months of 2008, according to CAAC Vice Minister Yang Guoqing. Based on the regulators’ estimate, Chinese airlines transported 4 million tonnes of cargo in 2008, down 14.8 per cent from a year earlier. They also transported 192 million passengers in 2008, down 13 per cent from 2007. Yang predicted that the carriers will face a “tougher” 2009 as the global financial crisis is expected to exert a deeper impact on the airline industry. But he expressed optimism about the growth of China’s economy owing to the fact that Beijing has set a goal of maintaining 8 per cent GDP growth this year. The CAAC has set a 2009 target of 220 million passenger boardings and 4.4 million tonnes of freight, up 11 and 8 per cent respectively.
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