Growing international e-commerce and an upturn in the global investment cycle are supporting growth in international air cargo demand with October up 3.1 per cent year-on-year, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In its latest update IATA notes the pace of growth was up from a 29-month low of 2.5 per cent in September as the air cargo industry entered the annual peak season.
Freight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), rose by 5.4 per cent year-on-year in October 2018 – the eighth month in a row that capacity growth outstripped demand.
This does coincide however, with the beginning of the peak season where carriers ramp up capacity for the anticipated demand which last year caught many off guard by the shear scale of the demand that left many shippers and forwarders scrambling for uplift.
The global airline body noted however, that overall demand continues to be negatively impacted by: A contraction in export order books in all major exporting nations in October; Longer supplier delivery times in Asia and Europe; and weakened consumer confidence compared to very high levels at the beginning of 2018.
“Cargo is a tough business, but we can be cautiously optimistic as we approach the end of 2018,” says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
“Slow but steady growth continues despite trade tensions. The growth of e-commerce is more than making up for sluggishness in more traditional markets. And yields are strengthening in the traditionally busy fourth quarter.
“We must be conscious of the economic headwinds, but the industry looks set to bring the year to a close on a positive note,” de Juniac adds.
All regions reported year-on-year demand growth in October 2018, except Africa which contracted.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for air freight grow by 1.9 per cent in October 2018, compared to the same period last year. This pace of growth was relatively unchanged from the previous month. Weaker manufacturing conditions for exporters, and longer supplier delivery times particularly in China and Korea impacted the demand, IATA says. As the largest freight-flying region, carrying more than one-third of the total, the risks from rising trade tensions are disproportionately high. Capacity increased by 4.2 per cent IATA adds.
North American airlines posted the fastest growth of any region in October 2018, with an increase in demand of 6.6 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 8.2 per cent over the same period. The strength of the US economy and consumer spending have helped support the demand for air cargo over the past year, benefiting US carriers, IATA says.
European airlines experienced a 1.4 per cent increase in freight demand in October 2018 compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 1.9 per cent year-on-year. Weaker manufacturing conditions for exporters, and longer supplier delivery times particularly in Germany, Europe’s largest freight flying country, impacted demand. Seasonally-adjusted international air cargo demand remained deflated in October, which could indicate the start of a broader weakening in demand.
Middle Eastern airlines’ freight volumes expanded 5.0 per cent in October 2018 compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 8.8 per cent over the same period. According to IATA, there are signs of a pick-up in seasonally-adjusted international air cargo demand helped by more trade to/from Europe and Asia.
Latin American airlines’ freight demand rose 0.3 per cent in October 2018 compared to the same period last year and capacity increased by 3.3 per cent. International demand slipped by 0.9 per cent, marking the first contraction in 11 months. International freight volumes have fallen month-on-month in four of the past five months, reflecting broad weakness in the region’s key markets.
African carriers saw freight demand decrease by 4.2 per cent in October 2018, compared to the same month last year. This was the seventh time in eight months that demand shrank. Capacity increased by 5.4 per cent year-on-year. Demand conditions on all key markets to and from Africa remain weak. Nonetheless, seasonally-adjusted international freight volumes have stopped declining and recovered sharply in recent months,” IATA says.