GENEVA – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets in April showing demand (measured in freight tonne kilometers or FTKs) was 3.2 percent above previous year levels.

Demand has not, however, grown in recent months. Traffic levels in April were slightly below those of January and 1.1 percent lower than what was recorded in March.

Latest data show that prior improvements in the demand environment are experiencing some reversal. Largely as a result of further slowdown in the emerging markets, mostly China, indicators of business confidence slipped further in April. Levels still point toward growth, but at the weakest pace for the past five months.

World trade growth has also slowed over recent months. However, momentum in advanced economies remains intact, and export orders still point to expansion. This suggests that current sluggishness in the demand drivers is likely temporary.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and chief executive officer, said: “Trading conditions for air freight are difficult. Overall, business activity and trade have shifted down a gear after a strong end to 2013. And this is taking its toll on growth in the air cargo sector.

"Developed economies are still maintaining post-recession momentum and the expectation is for a stronger finish to the year.

“Air cargo’s sales proposition is speed, and cumbersome processes are holding us back. In March we reached a significant milestone. For the first time, the e-Air Waybill (e-AWB) was used for over 200,000 shipments. That’s good news but we still have a long way to go.”

Regional Analysis

Asia-Pacific carriers saw cargo demand grow by 5.2 percent year-on-year. The strength of this performance is exaggerated by a comparison to a particularly weak April 2013.

Ongoing weakness in Chinese manufacturing activity is likely to impact on air freight demand in coming months, and export volumes in emerging Asian markets have been in continuous decline throughout 2014. Capacity rose 7.8 percent.

European
airlines saw demand for air cargo fall by 0.7 percent compared to April 2013, as trade activity leveled off. GDP growth in the Eurozone was just 0.2 percent in the first quarter. However, indicators look positive for a stronger second quarter. Capacity was up just 0.2 percent.

North American carriers posted year-on-year growth in demand of 2.6 percent. The latest data show a rebound in trade volumes to and from the US and underlying growth trends in business activity are positive. This could boost air freight growth in future months. Capacity was down 0.8 percent.  

Middle Eastern carriers reported that air cargo demand expanded 8.7 percent compared to the previous April. This is slightly slower growth compared to previous months, but still easily the strongest growth of any region.

Carriers are benefiting from the upswing in developed economies, and increased volumes from emerging markets in Asia and Africa. Capacity was up 8.1 percent.  

Latin American airlines suffered a fall in cargo demand of 6.5 percent compared to April 2013. Trade volumes in the region have slowed in recent months, reflecting a wider ongoing emerging market malaise. Capacity also fell, but by only 0.5 percent.   

African
airlines saw air cargo demand grow by 2.9 percent. Further growth was held back by weakness in key economies in the region, such as South Africa. Capacity rose by only 1.1 percent.