Air cargo volume continued its slow growth since April, marking a modest improvement in August with a rise in demand of 3.6 percent compared to the previous year, according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The slight expansion over the past few months was in line with strengthening business confidence following signs of improvement in the economic performance of Europe and the United States.
Year-to-date performance for the global industry was an expansion of only 0.7 percent.
The bulk of the August growth came from carriers in Europe and the Middle East, while Asia-Pacific volumes were stagnant and African volumes fell significantly.
For Asian airlines, a strong upswing would be needed to lift their cargo performance, which for August was flat at minus 0.2 percent, the IATA said. The regional airlines’ year-to-date performance showed a 1.9 percent decline.
The “flatline” performance of the region was largely attributed by IATA to a slowdown in emerging markets and a deceleration of China’s growth over the first half of the year.
A rebound in trade growth from July in response to the strength of developed markets could be an encouraging sign. But the Asian region’s carriers are facing stiffer competition for long-haul cargo, especially from airlines based in the Middle East, which have expanded their cargo business significantly, at 12.7 percent year-to-date.
“There are some signs of improvement in demand, but the airfreight business remains very tough,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, on the outlook for the overall industry. “Freight volumes are only now reaching the levels of 2011 when the cargo business peaked with revenues of US$67 billion.”
This year, the association expects $59 billion in revenue from air cargo globally, he added. “That takes the top line back to 2007 levels. But to earn that revenue, we will be moving nearly 17 percent more cargo and dealing with a 40 percent hike in jet fuel. The road ahead will be challenging.”