- Passenger numbers: 4.5 million, +4.1%;
- Cargo volume: 333,000 tonnes, +1.1%;
- Aircraft movements: 29,230, +5.0%.
Hong Kong International Airport pax numbers up 4.1% in May-2012, cargo up 1.2%
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Finnair accelerates capacity growth, led by long haul; seeks cost efficiency through fleet & labour
In 2016 Finnair accelerated its rate of capacity growth after a modest return to expansion in 2015, following cuts in 2014. It also experienced a fall in unit revenue (as did most European airlines), most notably in the regions of highest capacity growth, i.e. the long haul markets North America and Asia.
Asia is Finnair's most important long haul market (Japan and China are its two biggest markets by ASKs) and its ranking by seats on routes between European and NE/SE Asia is disproportionate. It has ambitious growth plans in the region and will increase frequencies to Tokyo and Hong Kong this summer. Its long haul network, which will also extend to San Francisco this summer and Goa next winter, is largely founded on connecting traffic via its Helsinki hub.
Finnair's return to capacity growth has coincided with a return to profit, but lower fuel prices were the main driver of its bottom line improvement. Its profit margins remain slim and, beyond the vagaries of fuel price benefits, Finnair aims for more sustainable unit cost cuts. Fleet strategy and labour productivity form a two pronged attack on its cost base.
Norwegian Air: longhaul-led capacity acceleration & rising fuel price may expose margin fragility
Norwegian's long haul operation has become its main growth engine. Although long haul still accounts for fewer ASKs than its short haul network, it will contribute more than half of Norwegian's incremental ASKs in 2017. Since the airline's long haul launch in 2013, Norwegian's widebody flights have enjoyed higher load factors than their short haul counterparts, and the company has broken new ground with its multi base long haul strategy outside its home market.
After Norwegian entered long haul it met a sudden drop in profitability, suffering losses in 2014. Its results have recovered since then, leading to its highest ever net profit and operating profit in absolute terms in 2016. At first sight this might indicate that Norwegian's long haul has healed its growing pains, and is maturing into more sustainable profitability.
However, there is evidence that Norwegian's profit recovery may have had more to do with lower fuel prices, helped also by tighter capacity growth in 2015. Moreover, its 2016 operating margin was below its own historic peak. With Norwegian facing rising fuel prices and accelerating its capacity growth in 2017, the robustness of its margin recovery will be tested this year.