Air cargo demand improvements set to continue in 2017

10 / 01 / 2017

The recent recovery in air cargo demand could last into the first half of this year after another month of growth in November.

The latest statistics from IATA show that air cargo demand in freight tonne km terms increased by 6.8% year on year in November, with Europe and Asia Pacific again leading the way.

While there was a slowdown from October’s improvement of 8.4% − a 20 month high – the November increase was still ahead of the 3.2% increase in demand registered for the year to date.

With demand increasing faster than supply, total market load factors reached 47.2%, a level not seen since March 2015.

IATA said November’s improvement underlined a strong peak season for the industry, with a rise in semi-conductor shipments and the growth in popularity of events such as black Friday and cyber Monday helping to push demand.

These events are expected to continue to contribute to future air cargo peak seasons.

The aviation organisation said that there were indicators that world trade volumes had been stagnating but air cargo was in a good position for the year ahead.

IATA director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac added that the air cargo industry could not stop developing despite the recent growth.

"Air cargo enjoyed a strong peak season in November. And there are encouraging signs that this growth will to continue into 2017, particularly with the shipment of high-value consumer electronics and their component parts.

“But, the trend in world trade is still stagnant. So it remains critically important for the air cargo industry to continue to improve its value offering by implementing modern customer-centric processes.”

Looking at performance on a regional basis, airlines in all regions except Latin America reported an increase in year-on-year demand in November.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand in freight volumes grow 6.1% year on year in November and capacity grew by 4%.

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“Seasonally-adjusted volumes [in the region] are now back to the levels reached in 2010 during the post-global financial crisis bounce-back. The increase in demand is captured in the positive outlook from business surveys in the region,” IATA said.

North American carriers’ freight volumes expanded 5.6% and capacity increased by 2.6%.

IATA said that freight traffic across the Atlantic continued to strengthen, increasing by 9% during the month.

This is being driven in part by an increase in westbound import flows from Europe to the US helped by a strong dollar. However US exports continue to suffer from the strength of the US dollar. 

European airlines posted a 9% year-on-year increase in freight demand in November. This was a slight slowdown compared to the 13.3% growth recorded in October, possibly attributable in part to the strike at Lufthansa.

“Notwithstanding this, the seasonally-adjusted growth trend is strong and corresponds with the sustained increase in export orders in Germany over the last few months and the ongoing weakness in the Euro. Capacity in the region increased by 4.8%,” IATA said.

Middle Eastern carriers enjoyed a boost in demand from the strong peak season with freight volumes increasing by 7.8%.

Seasonally-adjusted growth has slowed, however, mainly due to weak freight volumes between the Middle East and Asia, and the Middle East and Europe.

Latin American airlines experienced a demand contraction of 1.3% in November 2016, compared to the same period last year.

The region continues to be blighted by weak economic and political conditions, particularly in the largest economy, Brazil.

Finally, African carriers posted the largest increase in freight demand among the regions in November, 10.9% year-on-year, and the seasonally-adjusted growth remains strong.

“However, capacity surged by 26.9% on the back of long-haul expansion, particularly by Ethiopian Airlines, and this caused the freight load factor to fall in annual terms for the 19th consecutive month,” IATA said.