Weak global airfreight demand continues in March
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global airfreight markets showing that demand, measured in freight ton kilometres (FTKs), increased 0.1 percent in March 2019, compared with the same period in 2018.
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.
Freight capacity, measured in available freight ton 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.
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 with 2018.
“Year-on-year demand for airfreight 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,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director-general/CEO, said.
All regions reported year-on-year demand growth in March 2019, except Asia-Pacific, which contracted.
African carriers posted the fastest growth of any region in March 2019, with an increase in demand of 6.0 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. 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.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for airfreight shrink by 3.4 percent in March 2019, compared with the same period in 2018. This was a significant improvement from the 12.0 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.
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 airfreight volumes to/from North America and to/from Asia Pacific contributing to the softer performance.