Airfreight started slowly in January and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that 2015 is shaping up to be a tough year for the industry.
Despite the warning, the association says growth in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) for the month compared to January 2014 was 3.2 per cent, but below the 4.5 per cent average recorded last year.
Available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs) grew by 4.1 per cent, above the 3.7 per cent average of 2014, but the freight load factor (FLF) was 42.8 per cent, below the 45.7 per cent for the last calendar year.
The figures showed there were significant regional variation in performance, with Asia-Pacific, African and Middle Eastern airlines growing strongly, but carriers in Europe, and North and Latin America all reporting demand contractions.
“January was a disappointing start to the year for air cargo. And it is difficult to be too optimistic about the rest of the year given the economic headwinds in Europe and growing concerns over the Chinese economy,” explains Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and chief executive officer.
“Add to that the continuing trends of on-shoring production and trade protectionism and 2015 is shaping up to be another tough year for air cargo,” adds Tyler.
IATA says that it is too early to be certain of a trend towards weaker airfreight, but there are at least two emerging factors, that could negatively impact demand for air cargo in the coming months.
Firstly, business confidence has been declining since mid-2014 and export orders tailed-off towards the end of the year, and secondly, there has been a reversal of the positive trade-to-domestic production ratio, which boosted cargo volumes last year.
In January, Asia Pacific carriers grew FTKs by 6.9 per cent, supported by an improvement in regional import activity, and capacity rose 5.4 per cent.
European airlines saw volumes fall 1.2 per cent compared to a year ago, but capacity increased by 3.6 per cent, further weakening the load factor. IATA says the Eurozone is facing deflationary economic headwinds and the weakness of the Russian economy is also impacting demand.
North American carriers experienced a one per cent fall in FTKs, most likely due to the strong result that occurred in January 2014, but underlying trends are strong. Capacity fell 2.8 per cent, continuing the recent trend of improved load factor. Middle Eastern airlines expanded FTKs by 9.2 per cent, and capacity jumped 18.1 per cent, helped by network and capacity expansions.
Latin American carriers suffered a 6.4 per cent fall in FTKs compared to January 2014, due to the weakness of economies in Brazil and Argentina. Capacity fell by two per cent. African airlines grew cargo volumes by 5.2 per cent, and capacity rose by 2.4 per cent, strengthening the load factor.
Tyler adds: “While vulnerability to the economic cycles is beyond the control of any business sector, it is clear that the air cargo industry needs to do a better job.”