World cargo market budges slightly
Global freight tonne kilometers expanded by 1.4 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, according to figures from the International Air Transport Association.
Cargo markets made slow progress during the first half of the year. Acceleration in the trend took root in the latter half of 2013, placing air cargo volumes on a steadily increasing trajectory.
Capacity grew faster than demand at 2.6 percent and load factors were weak at 45.3 percent.
“2013 was a tough year for cargo,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, said. “While we saw some improvement in demand from the second half of the year, we can still expect that 2014 will be a challenging year. World trade continues to expand more rapidly than demand for air cargo. Trade itself is suffering from increasing protectionist measures by governments. And the relative good fortunes of passenger markets compared to cargo make it difficult for airlines to match capacity to demand.”
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In December, global FTKs grew 1.8 percent compared to a year prior. This continues the positive trend in the latter half of 2013, though it was down from the November figure of 6 percent. Capacity grew by 3.6 percent, taking load factor down 0.8 percentage points on a year ago, to 46.3 percent.
Regional performance varied. Middle Eastern and Latin American carriers reported the strongest growth in demand in 2013.
Asia-Pacific carriers, which have nearly 40 percent of the global airfreight market, saw freight volumes fall 0.3 percent in December, and declined 1 percent for 2013 as a whole, compared to 2012.
European airlines reported cargo growth of 2.9 percent in December and 1.8 percent for the whole of 2013, the best volume performance of the traditional big three aviation regions. The outlook, particularly in Germany, is improving.
North American carriers’ cargo volumes contracted 0.5 percent in December and fell by 0.4 percent for 2013. Indicators of business activity in North America have shown some improvement in recent months, but remain below the levels seen at the start of 2013.
Middle Eastern carriers continued their strong growth, expanding FTKs by 13 percent in December and by 12.8 percent for 2013. The Middle East has benefited from improving economic conditions in Europe as well as solid growth in domestic Gulf economies. Middle Eastern carriers have also captured a significant share of the increase in the volumes out of Africa.
Latin American airlines’ freight volumes fell 5 percent in December, but for 2013 as a whole, increased by 2.4 percent. This is a slower pace of growth than in 2012, largely reflecting sluggish growth in Brazil.
African airlines saw their freight volumes rise 1.7 percent in December and barely budge at 1 percent for 2013 overall. African volumes, after a strong start to 2013, suffered from a mid-year lull, which has continued into the second half of the year, with weakness in major economies such as South Africa as well as a slowdown in regional trade dampening demand.
"The dynamics in which the air cargo industry operates are changing, but air cargo’s basic value proposition remains the same,” Tyler said. “Customers still need speed, quality, reliability and efficiency. And we need to get better at delivering it through improved technology and modern processes. This will be a year of change for air cargo. A key measure of success will be in passing the tipping point on e-air waybill implementation. That will lay the foundation for further improvements for a modern paperless air cargo industry that can only be achieved by aligning all stakeholders – including governments – in a common vision.”