Home » Aviation, Breaking News » Airport freight traffic speeds up despite geopolitical pressure

Amid rising geopolitical risks, global freight volumes at airports picked up speed in May while passenger traffic growth remained resilient during the month, according to the latest figures from Airports Council International (ACI) World.

“The air transport sector has shown remarkable resilience to the tense climate that has descended over international relations and trade,” said Angela Gittens, director general, ACI World. “Tensions include the ongoing Qatari blockade and the political challenges facing major Western powers including Brexit negotiations in Europe, and the shifting approach to international relations in the United States.

“The link between aviation and global macroeconomic conditions, however, remains strong, so a prolonged period of diplomatic and market instability could dampen the industry’s outlook for the near future.”

Freight volumes continued on an upward curve in May, up 5.1% on a year-over-year basis, from 4.5% in April and 2.4% in March. May’s results were just below year-to-date figures, which stood at 5.3%. The domestic segment posted +8.6% for the period, compared to +3.6% for the international market. On a year-to-date basis, international freight has been growing at a slower speed than domestic freight this year, a change of pace from 2017.

Outlook for global air freight is currently mixed, with trade tensions and inflation up in May, but freight demand remaining robust in the near term, said ACI.

Asia-Pacific’s growth, though still robust at 4.8% on a year-to-date basis, has been middling in recent months, its 12-month rolling average reaching 6.3% in May. Year-over-year growth in freight volumes in the region’s major markets was relatively homogeneous, with figures ranging from 6.1% for India, to 3.1% for South Korea. Taiwan (+5.0%), Hong Kong (+4.7%), China (+4.4%), and Japan (+3.6%) all fell between this range.

“Asia-Pacific’s major air freight markets remain vulnerable to incoming tariffs from the United States through their consumer electronics exports. As such, this more moderate growth may remain for most of 2018,” said the report.

North America and Latin America-Caribbean performed particularly well during the period, both reaching +8.6% on a year-over-year basis. North America’s figures showed solid gains for both Canada and the United States, with 14.3% and 8.5%, respectively, on a year-over-year basis.

Chile and Mexico contributed a significant portion of growth to the Latin America-Caribbean’s freight market in May. The former posted  growth of 36.6% year-over year, with its year-to-date growth reaching 21.1%.

Affected by 2017 numbers, Europe’s freight market suffered a relative slowdown during May, posting an increase of 1.3% after growing by 4.6% in April and 0.9% in March. Although year-to-date figures remain in moderate growth territory with 4% at the end of May, the region’s 12-month rolling average has been trending downwards in 2018.

The Middle East, where the freight market had long sustained growth despite local geopolitical tensions, fell for the second month this year, posting -0.9% in May. Its year-to-date numbers stood at +0.4%, with a rolling 12-month average of +3.1%, which has been steadily declining.

Africa has been growing at a strong rate in the last year. May figures stood at +13.5%, pushing year-to-date figures to 11.4%.

On the other hand, global passenger traffic growth reached 5.6% in May year-over-year, below its parallel year-to-date and 12-month rolling average figures of 6.4%.  All three major regional markets grew at a similar pace in May, with Asia-Pacific growing by 6.3%, Europe by 6.2%, and North America by 5.6%.

Asia-Pacific’s year-to-date numbers reached 8.2% during the period, a slight slowdown from its frequent double-digit growth in 2017. The region’s two passenger markets have been growing significantly, with international passengers reaching +9.0% in May year-to-date, 1.1 percentage point above domestic passengers. The region’s passenger traffic figures showed higher disparity this month, with India, China, and South Korea posting +13.3%, +8.3% and +8.1%, respectively, while Australia and Japan posted more subdued figures of +2.8% and +2.3%, respectively.

Photo: Steven Agre

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