IATA’s full-year 2019 data for global air freight
markets shows that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers
(FTKs), fell by 3.3% when compared to 2018, while capacity (AFTK)
rose by 2.1%.
This was the first year of declining freight volumes
since 2012, and the weakest performance since the global financial
crisis in 2009 when air freight markets contracted by 9.7%.
In the month of December, cargo volumes contracted
2.7% year-on-year while capacity rose 2.8%.
cargo’s performance in 2019 was dampened by weak growth in global
trade of just 0.9%. The sector’s underperformance was also due in
particular to slowing GDP growth in manufacturing-intensive
economies. Softer business and consumer confidence, along with
falling export orders, also contributed to air freight struggles.
There are signs that confidence and orders could pick up
in 2020. It is too early to say what long-term effects will be
seen from the impact of restrictions associated with combatting
the coronavirus outbreak.
“Trade tensions are at the root of the worst year
for air cargo since the end of the Global Financial Crisis in
2009,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“While these are easing, there is little relief in that good news
as we are in unknown territory with respect to the eventual impact
of the coronavirus on the global economy. With all the
restrictions being put in place, it will certainly be a drag on
economic growth. And, for sure, 2020 will be another challenging
year for the air cargo business.”
All markets except Africa suffered volume declines in 2019.
Asia-Pacific retained the largest share of FTKs at 34.6%. The
share of freight traffic increased modestly for both North America
and Europe, to 24.2% and 23.7%, respectively. Middle East
carriers’ traffic share held steady at 13%. Africa and Latin
America saw their shares lift marginally, to 1.8% and 2.8%.
Asia-Pacific carriers in December posted a decrease in
demand of 3.5% compared to the same month in 2018.
Capacity increased by 2.8%. The full-year 2019 saw volumes decline
5.7%, the largest decrease of any region, while capacity increased
by 1.1%. As the world’s main manufacturing region, international
trade tensions and the global growth slowdown weighed heavily on
regional air freight volumes in 2019. Within-Asia FTKs were
particularly affected (down 8% compared to a year ago).
North American airlines saw volumes fall by 3.4% in
December, while capacity grew by 2.1%. For 2019 in total, the
region’s cargo volumes declined by 1.5%, compared to a capacity
increase of 1.6%. Trade tensions and cooling US economic activity
in the latter part of the year have been factors in the decline.
The 5.6% fall in international year-on-year volumes in December
was the weakest monthly growth outcome for the region since early
European airlines experienced a 1.1%
year-on-year decrease in freight demand in December, with a
capacity rise of 4.9%. The fall in December was typical of the
performance for 2019 as a whole, where volumes fell 1.8%, but
capacity increased by 3.4%. Softer activity, including in the
manufacturing-intensive German economy, combined with ongoing Brexit uncertainty, contributed to the 2019 result, which in
international freight volume terms was the weakest since 2012.
Middle Eastern carriers’ freight volumes decreased
3.4% year-on-year in December and capacity increased by just 1.9%,
the lowest of any region. This contributed to an annual result of
a decline in demand of 4.8% in 2019 – the second greatest decline
in growth rate of all the regions. Annual capacity increased just
0.7%. Disruption to global supply chains and weak global trade,
together with airline restructuring in the region, were the chief
drivers of the weaker freight outcome.
American airlines suffered the sharpest fall in demand of any
region in December, of 5.3%. The region was also the only one to
see a reduction in capacity (-3.1%). Although the region was the
second strongest performer across 2019 as a whole, limiting its
decline in volumes to just 0.4%, social unrest and economic
difficulties in several key countries led to the weakest
international FTK outcome since 2015. Annual capacity increased
African carriers’ saw freight demand increase by
10.3% in December 2019, compared to the same month in 2018. This
was reflected in the strong 2019 full-year performance, which saw
Africa freight volumes expand 7.4%. Capacity in December grew by
10% and for 2019 in total, increased by 13.3%. Over the year, air
cargo volumes have been supported by strong capacity growth and
investment linkages with Asia.
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