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Air freight demand continued to show signs of a slowdown in April while passenger traffic remained resilient with modest growth recorded, according to the latest airport data from Airports Council International (ACI) World.

The global air freight market—which almost returned to a positive growth result in March—fell again in April with a decline of 3.6%. Year-to-date result for the industry now stands at -2.6%.

“With trade conflicts between the United States and its major partners remaining unresolved, and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East flaring up again, the indications are that 2019 could be a difficult year for the air freight market,” ACI World director general Angela Gittens said.

“The global backdrop remains weak for both emerging and advanced economies and it remains uncertain whether trade tensions can be resolved and whether key macroeconomic indicators such as consumption and direct investment will regain momentum before the end of the year.”

After a temporary recovery with a smaller decline in March, international freight once again posted a significant loss in April, losing 6.6% year-over-year. Year-to-date figure stands at -4.4%, more than one percentage point below its result for the first quarter of 2019.

Asia-Pacific air freight volume contracted 7% against April 2018 and fell to -5.7% for the first four months of 2019. The region was the only one to also post negative figures for domestic freight, at -3.1% in April.

North America gained 1.4% and grew 0.7% on a year-to-date basis. The region’s international freight was still down for 2019, however, at -4.2% for the four first months of the year.

Europe’s freight volume fell by 5.5% during the month, reaching -3.1% year-to-date. Latin America-Caribbean’s freight volume fell 2.1% in April, bringing its year-to-date figure to -0.7%.

The Middle East also declined, down 4.3% against April 2018. It fell 2.3% for the first four months of the year.

Freight volume in Africa grew 6.8% during the month. Though its year-to-date figure of 3.6% remains moderate, it still stands more than 6 percentage points above the global industry’s year-to-date growth rate of 2.6%.

On the other hand, global passenger figures remained positive in April, growing by 2.9% year-over-year. Year-to-date growth now stands at 3.5%.

Domestic passenger traffic posted a 0.6% year-over-year growth rate in April, moderating the total global passenger traffic result of 2.9%, compared to the international passenger traffic growth rate of 5.6%. Year-to-date results of domestic passenger traffic growth stood at 2.5%, close to half of the international market’s growth rate of 4.9%.

While the Asia-Pacific year-to-date growth result is positive at 1.8%, total passenger volume fell 1% in April. The region’s domestic segment drove much of this decline, losing 3.9% against April 2018.

Given the usual strength of the region’s air transport market, this represents a major shift, said ACI. The slowdown has been particularly pronounced since the start of the year and has affected most major markets in the region. China’s domestic market has remained relatively resilient to this trend until now. The country’s economy has slowed down and indications are that this regional trend may continue throughout the year.

Europe gained the most during the month, with a 4.8% increase in total passenger volume. The region stood at +4.6% on a year-to-date basis.

North America also performed comparatively strongly given the global backdrop of uncertainty, gaining 3.5% in April, and standing at +3.9% on a year-to-date basis.

Africa performed well in April, bringing its year-to-date growth rate to 7.4%. Latin America-Caribbean followed a similar trend, growing by 5.4% since the start of the year. The Middle East trailed behind, with a gain of 1.2% for the period.

Photo: Allen

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