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Asian freight demand slides in 2011

By control on January 26, 2012

Demand for airfreight services in the Asia-Pacific took a nosedive in 2011, plunging 4.8 percent, year-over-year. Load factor in this region also declined considerably last year, falling to 66.6 percent — a 3.4-percent, year-over-year, drop — despite no capacity changes from 2010.

Officials from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said these numbers reflect weakened trade conditions around the world. Even so, passenger volumes in the Asia-Pacific remained high in 2011, growing 3.5 percent, year-over-year, on a capacity increase of 6.3 percent.

AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman said this discrepancy speaks to a larger issue at play. “Despite a series of natural disasters, including the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, growth in international passenger traffic for Asian airlines held up relatively well in 2011,” he said in a statement.

“By contrast, the year saw air cargo demand weaken significantly compared to the restocking surge experienced in 2010, reflecting cautious management of supply-chain inventories in the expectation of relatively weaker growth prospects for the major developed economies,” Herdman continued.

Herdman’s not convinced that 2012 will be any different. Uncertainty related to the global economy has caused concern among some Asian-Pacific carriers, he said.

“Overall, however, Asian airlines still remain optimistic about longer-term growth prospects, as evidenced by ambitious fleet plans, ongoing service enhancements, and the launch of innovative new business ventures,” Herdman said.

Optimistic or not, Asian-Pacific carriers have received considerable press lately for carrying lower volumes of freight. The International Air Transport Association, for instance, recently commented on this phenomenon, stating that Asian-Pacific airlines have been affected by the declining demand for Asian-manufactured goods in the U.S. and eurozone.

IATA officials also shared Herdman’s ambivalence moving into 2012, projecting that the global aviation sector will make a profit of $3.5 billion during the year; this is nearly half of IATA’s estimated profit for 2011.

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