Airfreight woes persist in Asia-Pacific

Freight volumes in the Asia-Pacific fell 4.4 percent, year-over-year, in August, a drop in line with the 4.1 percent, year-over-year, decrease in cargo capacity the region recorded last month. Such losses aren’t exclusive to August, however; last month marked the sixth consecutive month of cargo declines in the Asia-Pacific, according to Association of Asia Pacific Airlines statistics.

Cargo traffic in the region has been so sluggish, in fact, that February has been the only month of gains so far this year. Volumes rose 7.8 percent, year-over-year, in February, although this increase is somewhat misleading, AAPA officials asserted at the time. The Chinese New Year fell during the first week of February in 2011, skewing year-over-year statistics.

The region’s August performance, however, reflected the “persistent weakness in air cargo markets,” AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman said. He added that Asian carriers also saw a 4.4 percent, year-over-year, decline in airfreight demand during the first eight months of the year, “with no sign of any upturn.”

The region’s load factor also slid during the first eight months of 2012, falling 0.9 percent from January-to-August 2011. Still, the load factor among Asia-Pacific freight carriers was relatively flat in August, slowing only 0.1 percent, year-over-year, to 64.6 percent.

Despite these figures, passenger traffic has soared in the Asia-Pacific lately. Volumes surged 6.8 percent, year-over-year, in August, with Asia-Pacific airlines carrying 18.5 million passengers. The region’s load factor also improved last month, expanding 1.4 percent, year-over-year, on a 3.5 percent, year-over-year, capacity increase.

Hefty volumes or not, Herdman is realistic about the current situation facing the global aviation sector. “Notwithstanding the evident slowdown in the global economy, oil prices remain high, averaging $112 per barrel so far this year, further pressuring airline margins and industry profitability,” he said in a statement.

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