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  November 11th, 2015 | Written by

Global Air Freight Markets Grow Slightly in September

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  • Air cargo capacity expansions in all regions took freight load factors down to the lowest level since 2009.
  • Tony Tyler, IATA CEO: “The global [air cargo] trend is fragile, improvement is narrowly based.”
  • Middle Eastern carriers saw demand expand by 7.5 percent, 5.5 percentage points down on YTD average.
  • IATA: The weakness in air cargo markets largely tracks anemic growth in trade.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets showing very modest growth in September.

Air cargo volumes rose 1.0 percent compared to the same month a year ago. This represents a slight improvement on the August performance when volumes were stable. Overall, air cargo volumes remain 1.2 percent down from their 2014 year-end peak.

The results varied widely by region, IATA reported. Carriers in the Middle East reported the most significant growth (7.5 percent) followed by European (2.8 percent) and African airlines (2.5 percent). Asia-Pacific based airlines recorded negligible growth (0.3 percent), and markets in North America (-3.3 percent) and Latin America (-6.4 percent) recorded declines. All regions reported capacity expansions ahead of growth in demand, taking the freight load factor down to the lowest level, at 43.2 percent, since 2009.

“Although slightly improved from August, the global trend is fragile, and the improvement is narrowly based,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The 2.8 percent growth reported by European carriers reflects positive trends in trade with Central and Eastern European economies as well as a general improvement in manufacturing in the Eurozone. But the largest air cargo region, Asia-Pacific, was only just in positive territory, held down by weak regional trade.”

Asia-Pacific carriers saw a slight rise in freight ton kilometers of 0.3 percent in September compared to September 2014, and capacity expanded 2.1 percent. The contraction in emerging Asian markets appears to have bottomed out, although China, Korea and Chinese Taipei, among other key economies, are suffering from poor trade growth.

European carriers reported a rise in demand in September of 2.8 percent compared to a year ago and capacity rose 7.7 percent. The European performance looks more impressive considering that volumes for the year to date have been flat. Improvements in Eurozone manufacturing activity and in trade to and from Central and Eastern Europe seem to be supporting air freight demand.

North American airlines experienced a decline of 3.3 percent year-on-year and capacity grew 4.8 percent. Despite the poor year-over-year result, volumes in September were up 0.8 percent compared to August, indicating the possibility that anticipated improvement in economic performance for the second half of the year may drive stronger air freight demand.

Middle Eastern carriers saw demand expand by 7.5 percent, and capacity rise 12.6 percent. Although once again the fastest growing region, the increase was 5.5 percentage points down on the average for the year to date. Major economies in the region have seen slowdowns in non-oil sectors, but growth rates remain robust enough to sustain solid demand for air cargo.

Latin American airlines reported a decline in demand of 6.4 percent year-on-year, and capacity expanded 2.1 percent. Worsening economic and political conditions in Brazil have led to regional trade activity falling 7 percent between July and August. Air cargo demand is down 6.8 percent for the year with no sign of improvement in the months to come.

African carriers experienced growth in demand of 2.5 percent, and capacity rose by 8.1 percent. Nigeria and South Africa, the largest economies in the region, have underperformed. Regional trade, however, has held up, and generated increases in air freight volumes.

The weakness in air cargo markets largely tracks anemic growth in trade, IATA concluded.