IATA: Airfreight demand reaches 2010 levels

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The worldwide demand for airfreight services continued its steady rate of growth in October, reaching levels not seen in nearly five years, according to the latest figures release by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week.

In its October airfreight market report, IATA calculated an overall 5.4 percent growth in air cargo traffic, compared to the same month last year, thanks to a 5.6 percent year-over-year rise in international traffic and 3.9 percent growth in the domestic market. Since October 2013, IATA has reported a monthly, year-over-year increase in freight-tonne kilometers (FTKs) of roughly 3 to 6 percent.

“The good results reflect the improvements in world trade and business activity which have been evident since the summer,” IATA said. “World trade is growing steadily, supporting increased air cargo shipments. We are now back to levels of demand not seen since the 2010 post-recession bounce-back.”

However, Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, cautioned the airfreight business “is still in the hot seat and under pressure to improve its value offering. Customer expectations have evolved dramatically. Other modes of cargo have improved their competitiveness. Shippers expect the efficiency of electronic processes that they experience in almost every other sector. And when shipping specialty products – such as those requiring cold-chain control – they expect quality from end-to-end.”

Regionally, Middle-Eastern carriers again had the strongest increase, continuing a years-long trend of leading the world in cargo traffic growth. For October, the region saw a 13.1 percent y-o-y rise in FTKs, driven mostly through increased trade activity, especially perishable cargo, with developing markets in Africa and Central Amercia, IATA said.  

African carriers enjoyed a robust 9.6 percent y-o-y rise in October traffic, which was welcome news after the volatility seen in the early months of 2014. IATA cited the recovering economy of South Africa as a stabilizing force, which contributed to 9.2 percent and 11.5 percent y-o-y FTK gains in August and September, respectively.

Carriers from the Asia-Pacific region also performed well, showing a 6.7 percent y-o-y increase in October, with trade volume increasing in the region since the second quarter and new electronics releases, such as the iPhone 6, helping boost traffic. But IATA noted a red flag, saying manufacturing growth from China is slowing its formerly rapid pace, which may have a considerable overall cooling effect, given that Asia-Pacific airfreight accounts for about 40 percent of global FTKs.  

North American carriers reported 3.1 percent y-o-y growth in October, but the rate has declined from the 5 to 7 percent y-o-y growth the region had been seeing in the previous three months. Latin American carriers reported a 4.1 percent y-o-y surge in October, following several months of flat or declining performance.  

The European region again struggled in October, with a weak 1.4 percent y-o-y rise in traffic as the EU economy flirted with recession in Q3 2014 and the Russia-Ukraine tensions dampened regional trade – a trend that IATA said would likely continue.

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