Asiana to up Asian cargo frequencies despite weak market

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Despite the challenges facing the global air cargo industry, South Korea's Asiana Airlines is still planning a limited expansion of its cargo services in Asia.

Cargo is a major part of the Star Alliance carrier's business and last year, it accounted for 26% of the airline's revenue. It has a dedicated freighter fleet of 10 Boeing 747-400Fs and one Boeing 767-300F.

Between 2011 and 2012, the airline's cargo yield fell by 3% despite revenue tonne kilometres increasing by 6.8% as capacity increased by 4.5%. Volumes have also been on the decline since 2010.

The airline's chief executive Yoon Young-Doo says that this year, the airline is focused on making its cargo business more profitable.

It has set targets of a 3% improvement in both cargo yield and capacity, and a 6% increase in revenue tonne kilometres, for the year.

Yoon says that the airline plans to add frequencies to three key markets in Asia.

"Vietnam, Japan and China is where we will focus on the time being, instead of the long-haul services," he says.

Yoon adds that as South Korean electronics companies like Samsung increase their manufacturing operations in those countries, they show the greatest amount of potential to grow in an environment that remains subdued.

Asiana is particularly upbeat at the new opportunity to expand its cargo network to Tokyo's Narita airport, following recent developments in the allocation of traffic rights.

"Previously we couldn't get any business for Narita because we didn't have any traffic rights," says Yoon. "We are now able to put cargo flights to Narita, which could help us to develop new business out of the Japan market."

On its long-haul services, Asiana is hoping to "stabilise" its Dallas cargo service and increase its interline sales in the South American and Central American markets.