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  November 11th, 2016 | Written by

Will Political, Industry Changes Impact Air Freight Trends?

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  • Most global regions shared in the good news of increased air freight demand.
  • Washington summit promoted the economic value and strategic importance of air cargo.
  • Air cargo numbers are still trending up.

The September 2016 numbers are in for global air freight markets, and they have prompted cautious optimism.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), demand (measured in freight ton kilometers), rose 6.1 percent over September of 2015—the fastest growth pace since the disruption caused by the U.S. West Coast seaports strike in February 2015. Freight capacity also increased, by 4.7 percent.

New export orders triggered the ascent, along with companies having to making alternate shipping plans after the collapse of the Hanjin marine shipping line.

Most global regions shared in the good news. Freight volumes rose 5.5 percent among Asia-Pacific airlines, boosted by order increases in China and Japan. The European market reported a 12.6 percent volume increase, with Germany leading the way in new export orders.

The numbers are also up among North American carriers (4.5 percent in freight volume) and in Africa (up 12.7 percent in freight demand increase over last year). The only exceptions to the trend were among Middle Eastern carriers, where demand slowed for the third consecutive month, and among Latin American airlines (where demand dropped 4.5 percent).

More help may be coming for the industry following the launch of the World Trade Outlook Indicator, launched by the G20 Trade Ministers. It’s an acknowledgement that air freight is a key driver of global trade, as well as an early signal of turning points in economic activity.

It is hoped that this will be a first step toward forging closer ties and more dialogue between the G20 leadership and government agencies with some authority over air cargo in the United States.

That topic was also taking up at last month’s U.S. Air Cargo Industry Affairs (USACIA) Summit in Washington D.C. The gathering promoted the economic value and strategic importance of air cargo as an enabler of economic prosperity, so it would be prioritized as such by government officials.

Of course, many of those government officials are about to change in a few months, and the impact that will have is anyone’s guess.

It wasn’t that long ago that the conclusion of the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement carried a promise of more business that contrasted with the protectionist mood sweeping through several nations. “Governments everywhere should take note and move in the same direction,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

And then Donald Trump pulled off a stunning upset in the presidential election. Over the past year he has excoriated U.S. trade deals, vowing to rip them up and start over. He is against TPP and would consider tariffs on imports that will impact a wide range of companies, as well as the air cargo and ocean carriers charged with moving goods from one place to another.

The numbers are still trending up. Come January? It’s anybody’s guess.