Home » Aviation, Breaking News » Global air cargo remains in doldrums, says IATA

International air freight demand fell 8 percent in January compared to the same month in 2011, indicating the continued “stabilized weakness” in cargo markets, according to the latest traffic results from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The decline was aggravated by the Chinese New Year falling in January rather than in February as in 2011, the association said in a February 29 media release.

“The year started with some hopeful news on business confidence. It appears that freight markets have stabilized, albeit at weak levels. And this is having a positive impact on business-related travel. However, airlines face two big risks: rising oil prices and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Both are hanging over the industry’s fortunes like the sword of Damocles,” said IATA’s director general and CEO Tony Tyler.

Freight markets stood at 8 percent below January 2011 levels. The decline in air freight stabilized in the fourth quarter of 2011, at levels 4 percent below the 2008 pre-crisis peak. There was a 2.5 percent fall in global freight markets from December to January, but this is almost totally attributable to the impact of factory closures due to the Chinese New Year.

Freight capacity contracted by 0.6 percent year over year, and freight load factor fell to 41 percent (from 44.3 percent in January 2011) as deliveries of new wide-body passenger aircraft offset measures to reduce freight capacity.

Asia-Pacific and European airlines bore the brunt of the international decline, down 14 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, compared to January 2011.

In addition to the impact of the holiday, the peripheral economies in Europe have been in recession and attracting little inbound freight. Until recently this had been offset by strong outbound traffic flows from northern European economies.

Middle Eastern carriers enjoyed a 9.4 percent rise in demand, the healthiest performance among the regions. North American airlines’ demand dropped 4 percent. Latin American carriers’ traffic climbed 2.2 percent, while African carriers saw a 3.7 percent decline compared to the year-ago period.

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