Asia, US drive market increase as oil falls

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Airfreight volumes are expanding because of improving economic conditions in Asia and the US, while jet fuel prices have dropped 25 per cent from the mid-year peak of $125 per barrel, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) October airlines financial monitor.

Year-on-year freight tonne kilometres (FTK) have risen by 5.2 per cent for the total market. The Middle East has seen the biggest rise in FTK of 17 per cent in September, followed by Africa, which was up 11.5 per cent. Asia Pacific increased by 5.7 per cent, and North America was up 5.4 per cent. Latin America saw a modest rise of 0.3 per cent and Europe was down 1.6 per cent, compared to last September.

IATA says: “Gains in world trade and business activity paused in the first quarter, but the latest data shows improvement in some regions. Recent airfreight improvements have been driven by Asia Pacific and North America, where trade volumes have been expanding solidly after a period of weakness earlier in the year.”

In June, jet fuel was $125 per barrel, but prices have fallen to $102, which IATA says is a level not seen since late 2010. The association says strengthening of the US dollar and increasing crude oil supplies from the US have offset threats from other supplier nations.

North American airlines were the most profitable in the third quarter, with a post-tax profit of $2.3 billion, up from $2.1 billion for the same period of 2013. Asia Pacific profitability was affected by a weak Chinese renminbi, causing the industry’s profit to drop to $1.2 billion. Profit in Europe was $927 million, up from $818 million in the third quarter of 2013. Latin American profit declined to $41 million, while the rest of the world was up to $36 million.

Despite the good news, overcapacity remains a burden. The overall load factor in September was 45.5 per cent, down from March, when it was 48.7 per cent, and around the same as April and May, at 45.4 per cent and 45.1 per cent, respectively. In September, Asia Pacific had the highest load factor of 55.5 per cent, followed by the Middle East at 44.8 per cent. The load factor in Europe was 44.7 per cent and was 42 per cent in Latin America. In North America it was 36 per cent in September and Africa had the lowest load factor of 30.6 per cent.

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