May 8, 2019: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has posted an increase of 0.1 percent in global air freight demand, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs), for the month of March. While this is a significant improvement on the 4.9 percent contraction in February, in seasonally adjusted terms, demand is still down 1.5 percent over the past year.

African carriers posted the fastest growth with FTKs brisking up to 6.0 percent compared to the same period last year. Seasonally-adjusted international freight volumes are lower than their peak in mid-2017; despite this, they are still around 30 percent higher than their most recent trough in late-2015. Capacity grew 15.2 percent year-on-year.

Global freight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), rose by 3.1 percent year-on-year in March 2019. Capacity growth has now outstripped demand growth for 11 out of the last 12 months.

“Year-on-year demand for air freight edged back into positive territory in March with 0.1 percent growth. After four consecutive months of contraction, this is an encouraging development. But the headwinds from weakening global trade, growing trade tensions, and shrinking order books have not gone away,” said Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO, IATA.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw shrinking demand by 3.4 percent in March 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This was a significant improvement from the 12 percent decline in growth from the previous month. Weaker manufacturing conditions for exporters in the region, ongoing trade tensions and a slowing of the Chinese economy impacted the market. Capacity decreased by 1.0 percent.

North American airlines saw demand increase by 0.4 percent in March 2019, compared to the same period a year earlier. The recent easing of growth is partly due to a slowing of US domestic economic activity in the latter part of 2018 and falling global trade volumes. Despite this, new export orders are rising which would support air cargo growth. Capacity increased by 2.6 percent over the past year.

Total Market100.0%0.1%3.1%-1.5​%49.5%
Asia Pacific36.1%-3.4%-1.0%​-1.4%​55.6%
Latin America2.6%​3.6%16.9%​-4.2%​32.3%
Middle East​​13.2%1.3%3.8%​-1.2%​48.8%
North America23.0%0.4%2.6​%​-0.9%41.6​%

European airlines posted a 3.6 percent increase in freight demand in March 2019 compared to the same period a year earlier. Given the weaker manufacturing conditions for exporters in Germany, and uncertainty over Brexit, March’s performance represents a positive outcome. Capacity increased by 6.4 percent year-on-year.

Middle Eastern airlines’ freight volumes increased 1.3 percent in March 2019 compared to the year-ago period. Capacity increased by 3.8 percent. A clear downward trend in seasonally-adjusted international air cargo demand is now evident with weakening air freight volumes to and from North America and to and from Asia-Pacific contributing to the softer performance.

Industry confidence regarding the outlook however, remains relatively upbeat with only 13 percent of respondents from IATA’s Business Confidence Survey expecting to see a decrease in freight volumes in 2019 compared to 2018.

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