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  August 31st, 2016 | Written by

Growth in Air Freight Volumes Sluggish for First Half of 2016

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  • Global economic and political uncertainties and slow air cargo growth.
  • Economic developments in Japan, the U.S., and China contributed to marginal air cargo growth.
  • North America, Latin America-Caribbean, and Africa reported freight traffic losses.

Air freight markets posted marginal 0.5-percent growth for the first half of this year on a year-to-date basis.

Subdued growth in emerging markets and developing economies and a modest recovery in advanced economies (4.1 percent and 1.8 percent in GDP respectively, as projected by the International Monetary Fund for 2016) were the reasons for these trends offered by the Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports.

Air freight was substantially weaker than passenger markets for the same period.

The lackluster performance of global industrial activity and trade due to China’s economic transition, the weak growth of the Japanese economy, and the weaker than expected growth of the United States, combined with recessions in Brazil and Russia, have all had a negative impact on air freight markets. Three regions plunged into negative territory in terms of year-over-year changes in freight volumes on a year-to-date basis. North America, Latin America-Caribbean, and Africa reported freight traffic losses of 2.1 percent, 0.9 percent, and 0.1 percent, respectively. Asia-Pacific and Europe reported freight traffic growth of 1.0 percent and 2.3 percent respectively, while only the Middle East grew a robust 4.5 percent over the course of the first six months in 2016.

Meanwhile, global passenger traffic grew 4.5 percent in June 2016 and 5.6 percent for the first half of the year. Except for Africa where the drop in passenger traffic was anticipated (-4.4 percent year-to-date), all regions posted growth in passenger volumes, ranging from 1.7 percent in the Latin America-Caribbean region to Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, which both grew strongly at 8.8 percent on a year-to-date basis. The mature markets of Europe and North America both grew 4.9 percent during the first half of the year.

Total freight traffic in Africa increased 0.7 percent in June compared with the previous year and declined 0.1 percent during the first six months of 2016. Modest growth in air freight traffic in South Africa (+2.2 percent) was not enough to offset air cargo traffic dips in other major markets, such as Egypt (-7.4 percent), Kenya (-6.9 percent) and Nigeria (-1.7 percent).

Total air freight traffic in Asia-Pacific picked up at 5.9 percent in June 2016, surpassing the year-to-date figure of 1.0 percent. International air freight in the region grew a meager 0.5 percent during the first half of year, while domestic air freight in Asia-Pacific was somewhat stronger at 2.4 percent. China, accounting for over a third of air freight traffic in the region (34.3 percent share in 2015), grew a modest 3.9 percent in total freight. In Japan—the second largest air freight market in the region with a 13.4 percent share—air freight at major commercial airports dropped 2.7 percent during the first half of 2016, with equal declines in domestic and international freight. Hong Kong—the third largest air freight market in Asia-Pacific with a 10.8 percent share—saw a 0.8 percent fall in international freight, while India posted a robust 9.6 percent increase in total freight for the first six months of 2016, consisting of 4.1 percent growth in domestic freight and 10.5 percent growth in international freight. South Korea posted 0.4 percent increase in total air freight, international freight growing 0.9 percent even as domestic freight slipped into negative territory with 4.6 percent decrease. The air freight markets of Malaysia and Indonesia saw traffic declines of 18.5 percent and 8.8 percent respectively on a year-to-date basis.

In Europe, total air freight traffic grew 1.7 percent in June 2016, which was slightly below the year-to-date figure of 2.3 percent. The three largest air freight markets in the region were Germany, the UK, and France. They reported a 1.9 percent, 3.6 percent, and 3.6 percent growth respectively during the first six months of 2016. Turkey reported sharp 12.4 percent decline rate in air freight traffic at its major commercial airports.

Latin America-Caribbean saw a 3.2 percent drop in air cargo in June 2016 and 0.9 percent on a year-to-date basis. While air freight traffic in Brazil was down 9.4 percent year-to-date, Colombia and Mexico recorded 0.3 percent and 5.8 percent increased respectively. In Mexico, international and domestic air freight were strong at 6.0 percent and 5.0 percent respectively during the first half of the year.

Air freight traffic was not as strong as passenger traffic in the Middle East during first the six months of 2016, even though airports in the Middle East recorded the highest increase in air freight compared with other regions, at 4.5 percent. At the country level, Qatar was the largest contributor to air freight growth in the region with Doha reporting a 20.3 percent growth rate for the first half of the year, equivalent to an additional 129,230 tonnes of cargo.

North America’s air freight volumes grew 2.1 percent in June but dropped 2.1 percent during the first six months of the year.