IATA: Pressure appears to have eased on declining airfreight market

By Rachelle Harry

IATA’s latest airfreight market analysis, which details figures for November 2019, noted that industry-wide freight tonne kms (FTKs) dipped by 1.1% year on year. This marked the 13th consecutive month of year-on-year decline in airfreight volumes.

However, November’s performance was also the best in eight months, because it showed the slowest year-on-year rate of contraction since March 2019.

IATA suggested that the slowdown in declines in November could have been due to huge e-commerce events, such as Single’s Day in Asia and Black Friday, which both took place that month.

However, October and November’s performance still marked a disappointing start to the peak season, which is usually the busiest time of year by far in terms of airfreight demand.

Alexandre de Juniac, director general and chief executive of IATA, believes peak season was hindered by factors such as the US-China trade war.

“Demand for air cargo in November was down 1.1% compared with the previous year,” de Juniac commented. “That’s better than the 3.5% decline posted in October, but it is a big disappointment considering that the fourth quarter is usually air cargo’s peak season”.

On a slightly more positive note, he added: “Looking forward, signs of a thawing in US-China trade tensions are good news, but trading conditions at present remain very challenging.”

Regionally, in November 2019, airlines based in Africa displayed the fastest growth out of all the regions, with a 19.8% year-on-year increase in demand. Capacity for Africa-based airlines increased 13.7% year on year. The region’s strong performance is likely due to strong trade and investment links with Asia as a result of the trade war, IATA said.

In November, Europe-based airlines posted a 2.6% year-on-year increase in airfreight demand. This was the first time in six months that the region performed positively.

Meanwhile, capacity for Europe-based airlines increased by 4% year on year. IATA suggested that better-than-expected economic activity in the third quarter of last year, in some of the region’s large economies, helped to support demand.

North American carriers experienced a 1.1% decrease in demand in November 2019 year on year, and a capacity increase of 3.3%.

“Slower growth in the US economy and trade tensions with China have affected demand,” IATA pointed out. However, “positive progress in trade negotiations between both countries highlighted by the ‘phase one’ deal is a positive development”.

Airlines from the Latin America region experienced a year-on-year decrease, of 3.4%, in freight demand. Airfreight capacity for the region in November also decreased by 2.3% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, the Middle East region’s airlines experienced a 3% year-on-year decline in November 2019. This figure was down from the 5.7% year-on-year drop in October 2019. Airfreight capacity in the region increased by 2.6%.

Asia Pacific-based airlines saw demand for airfreight drop by 3.7% in November 2019, compared with the same period in 2018, and capacity increased by 1.8%. The Asia Pacific’s decline in airfreight demand in November was the sharpest of all of the regions and it highlights the impact of the US-China trade war.

Overall, pressures on global declining volumes appear to be easing, setting up the path for more positive performances in 2020.

Figures from analyst WorldACD depict a similar market landscape: cargo demand in chargeable weight declined by 2.5% in November, an improvement on declines of 6.9% in August, 5.3% in September and 4.7% in October. Meanwhile, the analyst said, load factors have climbed steadily since August, improving by 2 to 2.5 percentage points in September, October and November.

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