Qatar Airways, the largest non-express scheduled air cargo carrier in the world, on Thursday reported a 25% increase in cargo revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31 from moving more than 3.3 million tons of goods. Volume by weight was more than double the last pre-pandemic year.
The company claims it now holds an 8% share of the cargo market, although it is unclear what the figure is based on since there are no known independent rankings for market share. Nobody was available to explain the claim because the company’s main office closes on Fridays.
Outsize cargo contributions to airlines’ top lines have been an industry feature during the two-year COVID crisis and cargo no doubt played a role in the Middle East carrier’s record net profit of $1.54 billion. But details are limited because the company is wholly owned by the Qatari government and its financial statements are more opaque than those of publicly traded rivals.
Qatar Airways, for example, doesn’t publish its actual cargo revenue figure or cargo yield. It did say that tonnage increased 10% and cargo capacity, measured in available ton kilometers, increased 25% from the prior period. A portion of that extra space for cargo was due to the reintroduction of more passenger aircraft to the network following COVID-related cutbacks, which the company said was possible because of more accurate forecasting about the market recovery.
Qatar Airways carried 18.5 million people, an increase of 218% from the prior year, because it restored its network to more than 140 destinations while most international carriers, hurt by COVID border restrictions and low travel demand, maintained downsized schedules. It now lays claim to being the largest global long-haul carrier.
Shippers continue to prize transport capacity because the overall supply is still down more than 5% from pre-COVID levels due to reduced passenger operations.
The airline, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year, said overall revenue increased 78% to $14.4 billion — notably 2% higher than the last pre-COVID fiscal year — and that year-over-year operating profit grew 34%. The strong margins were achieved because of the higher tempo in passenger operations, building customer loyalty and strong cost controls.
Qatar Airways has invested heavily in its pharmaceutical handling capabilities in recent years. Since the pandemic, it has carried more than 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Last year it began offering real-time pricing and capacity on the Freightos digital marketplace. Freightos recently disclosed that Qatar Airways is one of its top investors and is providing an additional $10 million in funding.
The cargo fleet consists of 26 Boeing 777-200 widebody freighters and two 747-400s.