Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest cargo airline, said it’s concerned that a stock market rout which wiped $3.2 trillion off the value of China’s top companies in less than a month is set to cripple the air-freight industry.

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Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest cargo airline, said it’s concerned that a stock market rout which wiped $3.2 trillion off the value of China’s top companies in less than a month is set to cripple the air-freight industry.

Capacity utilization at Lufthansa Cargo slumped to 64 percent in May amid overcapacity on Asian routes, the lowest monthly level in almost six years, meaning that more than one- third of available freight space went unfilled.

“Look at the stock markets in China, they are down 20 to 30 percent in the last few months,” Peter Gerber, head of Lufthansa’s cargo operations, said at an industry event in Frankfurt. “That’s a medium earthquake. If this shows through, air freight will be the first to notice.”

The Drewry East-West Air Freight Price Index, which tracks returns on 21 major routes from Asia, fell to its lowest since August 2009 in May, when Chinese exports declined for a third straight month and imports for a seventh consecutive month.

Leipzig airport, the main European hub for Deutsche Post AG’s DHL arm, the world’s largest air freight forwarder, said it’s also monitoring developments with some trepidation.

“China is entirely weak at the moment, and we in air freight are all dependent on China,” said Markus Kopp, the hub’s chief executive officer. “If there is one important source market, then it’s China.”

The impact on airlines of slowing demand is being amplified by increases in cargo space as three metric tons of capacity are added in the bellies of new passenger planes for every ton of full-freighter volume, according to estimates from the International Air Transport Association, which called current demand conditions “gloomy” in a July 1 report.

While Lufthansa Cargo has a dedicated freighter fleet comprising 14 Boeing MD-11s and five 777s, it also sells space in the group’s 400-plus passenger aircraft.

The Asian slowdown comes after Lufthansa, Europe’s second- biggest airline in the passenger market, said in March it would improve operating profit at the cargo unit this year, backed by 3 to 4 percent volume growth.