Study: Stagnation permeating U.S. airfreight market

The U.S. airfreight market generated revenues of $28 billion in 2011, a 7.4 percent, year-over-year, increase. Although a seemingly positive development, this figure is on par with the revenues the industry recorded in the 2000-2001 financial year. Such statistics show that the U.S. — despite the domination of integrators FedEx and UPS — isn’t immune to the sluggishness affecting the global airfreight market, a new study conducted by Air Cargo Management Group asserted.

Overall, cargo traffic in the U.S. dipped 1.3 percent, year-over-year, to 12.117 billion tonne miles in 2011. Unfortunately, the same problems that plagued the domestic airfreight sector last year are likely to continue in 2012, according to the ACMG study.

“The U.S. airfreight industry, once characterized by rapid double-digit growth, has gone through 10 to 15 years with no net expansion,” ACMG Managing Director Robert Dahl said in a statement. “Part-year data for 2012 shows flat traffic versus 2011, so the chance of any significant rebound this year in traffic volume appears remote.”

Even so, ACMG executives said some growth has occurred lately. For instance, the fourth quarter of 2011 saw the number of express shipments in the U.S. surge 0.5 percent, year-over-year, to 5.42 million shipments per day. But the study also showed that the revenue-tonne-mile traffic and express package volume metrics are on par with mid-’90s statistics.

Also troubling is the fact that ACMG found that the U.S. airfreight sector is unlikely to grow any faster than the U.S. GDP. And legacy passenger carriers are certainly not helping to reverse this trend, ACMG officials asserted. The study found that U.S. cargo traffic among major combination carriers has stalled 67 percent since 2000. During that time, ACMG said, cargo volumes for these airlines dipped more than 55 percent and mail traffic plunged more than 80 percent.

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