Global airfreight has got off to a weak start in 2019, with freight tonne kilometres falling 1.8% in January, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says.
The fall was the worst performance in the last three years and comes as air cargo faces significant headwinds. Global economic activity and consumer confidence have weakened, while the Purchasing Managers Index for manufacturing and export orders has indicated falling global export orders since September 2018.
Freight capacity measured in available freight tonne kilometres rose by 4% in January, the 11th month in a row that capacity growth has outstripped demand.
Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of IATA says: “Air cargo markets contracted in January. This is a worsening of a weakening trend that started in mid-2018. Unless protectionist measures and trade tensions diminish there is little prospect of a quick re-bound.”
Only North America and Africa grew in January, with Latin America remaining flat while Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East all contracted.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand shrink by 3.6% due to weak manufacturing conditions for exporters, ongoing trade tensions and a slowing of the Chinese economy. Capacity increased 4.1%
North America grew at the fastest rate for the 8th consecutive month, with demand increasing 3.3% due to the strength of the US economy and consumer spending. Capacity was up 5%.
European airlines contracted by 3.1% with capacity up 2.8%. Exporters faced weaker manufacturing conditions and shorter supplier delivery times, particularly in Germany. Trade tensions and Brexit uncertainty also contributed to weaker demand.
Middle Eastern airlines were down 4.5% with seasonally-adjusted demand, which trended upwards for the past three months helped by stronger trade to and from Europe and Asia, has started to decline. Capacity increased 4.1%.
Latin American demand was flat, but despite economic uncertainty in the region, a number of key markets are performing strongly. Freight traffic within South America and between Central and South America grew at double digit rates and demand between North and South America was also strong. Capacity decreased 0.7%.
Demand in Africa was up 1% with capacity growing 8.2%. Seasonally-adjusted demand has trended upwards for six months. Seasonally-adjusted volumes are lower than the mid-2017 peak but still 35% higher than the most recent trough in late-2015.