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Airfreight volumes reach highest levels since mid-2011

June has seen a 1.2-percent year-over-year expansion in global airfreight demand, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Although weak, this is an improvement when compared to the 0.9-percent demand growth in May and the 0.1-percent growth during the first half of the year.

The strongest improvements in business confidence are in some developed economies, though overall business confidence continues to be weak. Previously, the global trend was defined by robust emerging economies and stagnant growth in developed markets.

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"It's too early to tell if June was a positive turning point after 18 months of stagnation,” Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and CEO, said. “Airfreight volumes are at their highest since mid-2011, but that good news needs to be tempered with a dose of reality. The global economic environment remains weak, and the basis for the acceleration of air cargo growth in June appears to be fragile.”

From May to June, global freight volumes increased by 0.8 percent. A quarter of that improvement was captured by European airlines, which saw a 0.9-percent improvement in demand compared to May, and 2.6 percent compared to June 2012. In contrast, Asia-Pacific carriers – the biggest players in airfreight – and North American airlines recorded year-over-year declines of 1.8 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Nearly 58 percent of respondents to IATA’s Airline Business Confidence Index, which was released in July, expected freight volumes to increase over the next year. But 72.2 percent of respondents expect no change in weak cargo yields despite their expected increase in demand over the same period.

Asia-Pacific carriers showed the weakest performance among the regions as they felt the effects of the slowing Chinese economic expansion.

By contrast, although the Eurozone remains in recession, there are some signs of stability. For example, manufacturing activity contracted at its slowest pace in 16 months, easing pressure on key economies such as Italy, Spain and France. An improvement in consumer confidence is likely to support demand for the sale of lightweight high-value goods typically shipped by air.

The U.S. economy looks to have slowed in the second quarter. Business activity continues to expand, however at a slower pace than in previous months.

The consistent high growth for Middle Eastern airlines in recent years has led to a substantial increase in its share of world airfreight.

Latin-American exports have been growing faster than any other region in recent months, underpinning the carriers’ stronger performance.

African airlines recorded relatively slower growth in June. With economic growth in some key African markets looking strong, demand for high-value lightweight consumer goods should rise, helping airfreight volumes in the coming months.