West Coast port crisis boosts Q1 air freight

IATAThe global airfreight market experienced a modest bump in the first quarter of 2014, thanks to a strong February which was positively colored by the combination of the West Coast port labor crisis and a massive automobile recall in the U.S. Total air cargo traffic worldwide for Q1, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), increased 5.3 percent year-on-year, but the gain came mostly as a result of a 12.2 percent increase in February, while March saw only a 1.6 percent rise compared to last year.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the first quarter growth was slightly higher than the 4.5 percent it anticipated in its December outlook. Comparing the first quarter 2015 to 2014, international traffic growth was 5.8 percent, while domestic traffic rose 2.3 percent.

For March 2015 compared to March 2014, international traffic was up 1.7 percent, while domestic growth was only 0.9 percent. By region, Middle East carriers saw their FTKs grow by 10.6 percent, while Asia-Pacific carriers saw FTK growth of 2 percent year-on-year. At a glance this might look shocking compared to February’s 20.5 percent rise in FTK over 2014, but the Lunar New Year fell in February this year.

Latin America and Europe continue to struggle. European carriers’ cargo traffic declined 2.4 percent in March 2015 compared to March 2014. With economies in Brazil and Argentina continuing to struggle, FTKs flown by Latin American airlines fell 6.4 percent.

North American carriers saw March cargo traffic increase slightly (0.8 percent) year-on-year, while African Airlines enjoyed a 2.4 percent increase. IATA reports the African region is posting solid growth in Q1 2015 despite under-performance of the continent’s two largest economies,  Nigeria and South Africa.

Summing up the year so far, IATA’s director general Tony Tyler said: “The air cargo industry is on a solid but unspectacular growth trend. And there is little evidence today that would point towards an acceleration as the year goes on.”

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