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  June 7th, 2016 | Written by

Air Freight Markets Grow in April

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  • The strongest growth in air cargo in April occurred in the Middle East and Europe.
  • Stronger air cargo growth in April is largely due to the lack of comparison with the 2015 seaport strike in the U.S.
  • Overall, the demand for air cargo remains soft.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released demand growth results for global air freight markets for April 2016 showing a 3.2-percent increase in demand measured in freight ton kilometers (FTKs) compared to the same period last year.

Yields remained pressured as April freight capacity (measured in available freight ton kilometers or AFTKs) increased by 6.6 percent year-on-year. ​​The increase in demand was broad-based across all regions with the exception of Latin America. The strongest growth occurred in the Middle East and Europe, with April demand up by 7.7 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively, compared to the same period last year.

While growth appears to be stronger than in the preceding months of 2016, this is largely due to the disappearance from the comparison data of distorting factors associated with the 2015 strike at seaports on the US West Coast.

Overall, the demand for air cargo remains soft and lags behind the relatively robust growth on the passenger side of the business. This is largely driven by weak world trade. The first quarter of 2016 saw the first annual decline in trade volumes since the global financial crisis in 2009, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) predicts only sluggish growth for the remainder of 2016.

“While the April uptick in demand growth for air cargo is encouraging, the overall economic environment is not,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The decline in global trade does not bode well for air cargo markets in the months ahead.”

Asia-Pacific airlines’ demand for air cargo was basically flat with a 0.1-percent rise in April compared to last year, while capacity expanded 2.8 percent. The largest factor impacting this stagnation is weak trade, globally and in the region.

North American carriers experienced a significant upward swing in year-on-year performance as the exaggerated effects of last year’s U.S. seaport disruption wore off. Demand grew by 4 percent in April 2016 compared to the same period last year, significantly better that the 0.8 percent drop the previous month.

European airlines witnessed a 6.8-percent increase in freight volumes in April 2016, the highest growth since November 2013. The strong European performance corresponds with an increase in export orders in Germany over the last few months. Despite European cargo demand trending upwards, performance remains weak in historical terms. Seasonally adjusted demand in April 2016 was only 1.5 percent higher than mid-2011.

Middle Eastern carriers saw demand expand b​y 7.7 percent and capacity rise 11.0 percent in April 2016 compared to the same period last year. Although carriers in the region continued to report the fastest growth in aggregate, the April growth rate was about half that recorded in April 2015. This reflects both a slowdown in network expansion by the region’s main carriers over the past six months and weak trading conditions.

Latin American airlines reported a decline in demand of 5.9 percent and a drop in capacity of 0.7 percent, as economic conditions continued to worsen, particularly in the region’s largest economy, Brazil.

African carriers saw flat-line freight growth in April 2016 compared to the same period last year. Notably, on the back of long-haul expansion, the capacity for African airlines surged by 24.3 percent year-on-year. This is more than double the pace of any other region in recent months.