The global air cargo market saw a 4.0 per cent year-on-year decline in January according to the latest ‘dynamic load factor’ market intelligence from CLIVE Data Services. The global dynamic load factor fell two percentage points relative to last year to 65 per cent.
Four-week data to 2 February largely reflects the influence of the earlier Chinese New Year, but CLIVE is also closely monitoring the impact of the coronavirus on airfreight volumes, which will be clearly evident in its data reports over the coming weeks.
CLIVE says its “first-to-market” analysis each month consolidates data shared by a representative group of international airlines operating to all corners of the globe. Based on both the volume and weight perspectives of the cargo flown and capacity available, CLIVE’s dynamic load factor analysis gives the air cargo industry the earliest possible barometer of market performance each month, the data company says.
CLIVE’s managing director, Niall van de Wouw says: “At face value, the 4.0 per cent drop in global air cargo in the weeks between 6 January and 2 February appear to be quite a setback relative to the growth numbers seen in the last three months of 2019.
“But looking at the data in more detail tells a more nuanced picture. The Chinese New Year holiday started this year on 25 January, one week earlier than in 2019. By our estimates, the fact that this is holiday is celebrated in such major air cargo origins as China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore, pushed the overall growth number down by around -3.0 per cent for the start of the year. This implies that the ‘normalised’ global market saw a decline of -1.0 per cent,” van de Wouw says.
For a regional holiday to have such an impact on global volumes, the drop must be quite dramatic, CLIVE notes. In the last week of January, volumes from China to Europe, relative to the same week in 2019, dropped by 66 per cent.
Subsequently, the dynamic load factor of westbound flights from China dropped from close to 90 to 74 per cent. The reason for the load factor not dropping further is due to airlines cutting capacity by 44 per cent relative to the same week last year.
Most of this fall in capacity was caused by a reduction of freighter services in anticipation of the weaker demand.
“While the industry traditionally anticipates lower demand during Chinese New Year, the big unknown now is the impact of the coronavirus at the start of a year where there was previously slight optimism for a modest recovery in air cargo volumes,” says van de Wouw.
“We have already seen airlines suspending passenger services in response to the virus, and now it’s a case of wait and see. The impact of the coronavirus on cargo volumes out of China will become clearer in the weeks to come when the factories reopen and their supply chains are brought up to speed again. How quickly that will happen – and what knock-on effects it has for global air cargo industry – will be a strong indicator for the year ahead.”