The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported that global air freight markets declined for the thirteenth consecutive month.


Global airfreight down 1.1% but best since March

It said airfreight was down by 1.1% in November 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.

It is, however, airfreight's best performance in eight months, with the slowest year-on-year rate of contraction recorded since March 2019. IATA said the steady demand, albeit the dip, reflects the volumes from e-commerce events such as Singles Day and Black Friday.  

“While international e-commerce continues to grow, overall air cargo demand continued to face headwinds from the effects of the trade war between the US and China, the deterioration in world trade, and a broad-based slowing in global economic growth,” it said in a statement.


Freight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), rose by 2.9% year-on-year in November 2019 as capacity growth has now outstripped demand growth for the 19th consecutive month, it added.


“Air cargo recovered slightly in November, with demand down 1.1%  a significant improvement over the 3.5% decrease in October. However, the fourth quarter is a peak season for air cargo. So, a decline in growth is still a disappointment. Looking forward, signs of a thawing in US-China trade tensions are good news but there is still a long way to go if cargo is to achieve 2.0% growth forecast in 2020,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.


Africa, Europe airfreight volume grows; other regions decline


Airlines in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East suffered sharp declines in year-on-year growth in total air freight volumes in November 2019, according to IATA while North American carriers experienced a more moderate decline. 


Europe and Africa were the only regions to record growth in air freight demand compared to November last year.


IATA said Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for air freight contract by 3.7% in November 2019, compared to the same period in 2018 — the sharpest drop in freight demand of any region for the month.


"The US-China trade war has significantly affected the region, with demand on large Asia - North America market down 6.5% year-on-year in October. However, the thawing of US-China trade relations and robust economic growth in key regional economies are positive developments," IATA said.


North American airlines saw demand decrease by 1.1% in November 2019, compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 3.3%.


IATA said the slower growth in the US economy and trade tensions with China have affected demand. However, positive progress in trade negotiations between both countries highlighted by the ‘phase one’ deal is a positive development.


Middle Eastern airlines’ freight volumes dropped by 3.0% during the same month – although a significant improvement over the 5.7% decrease in October as capacity increased by 2.6%.


"Against a backdrop of operational and geopolitical challenges facing some of the region’s key airlines, seasonally-adjusted freight volumes in the region have continued a modest upward trend which is a positive development for the region’s carriers. However, escalated geopolitical tensions threaten the regions’ carriers in the period ahead," IATA said in its statement.


Latin American airlines also experienced a decrease in freight demand year-on-year in November 2019, declining by 3.4%. IATA said various social and economic headwinds in the region’s key economies have impacted the region’s air cargo performance.


Meanwhile, European airlines posted a 2.6% increase in freight demand in November compared to its performance a year ago as better than expected economic activity in Q3 in some of the region’s large economies helped support demand.


Capacity increased by 4.0% year-on-year.


African carriers posted the fastest growth of any region during a similar period, with an increase in demand of 19.8% compared to the same period a year earlier.


IATA noted that "strong trade and investment links with Asia contributed to the positive performance."