The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released figures showing a 6.1% growth in demand (measured in freight tonne kilometers or FTK) for air freight in November 2013 over the same month in the previous year. November’s performance is an improvement on the 4.4% year-on-year demand expansion recorded in October. This continues an improvement trend in the weak air cargo markets which has been developing over 2013.
All regions reported growth except for Latin America and Africa. The strongest performing region was the Middle East where carriers reported a 16.5% improvement. Significantly, Asia-Pacific carriers, who account for some 40% of the market, reported 4.9% growth, more than doubling the 1.8% growth of October.
Healthy demand coupled with a slower expansion in capacity helped to improve the average load factor to 49.2% which is 0.7 percentage points above the previous November.
"The November results are encouraging—particularly for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region. This good news is largely being driven by improving economic prospects in China along with an overall boost on Asian trade routes. The uptick is a welcome development in a weak performing market. Overall volumes, when adjusted for seasonality, are still below the peaks reached in 2010 and 2011," said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Regional differences in demand growth remain broad. Carriers in Latin America and Africa reported a slight year-on-year contraction as airlines in the Middle East continue to report double digit growth.
Asia-Pacific carriers saw cargo demand grow by 4.9% in November compared to November 2012. This is up from the 1.8% year-on-year growth recorded in October. The expansion was fueled by a rebound in Asian trade volumes and the improving Chinese economy. Stronger demand for Asian manufactured consumer goods in North America and Europe has also supported the rise in Asian trade and air freight volumes. The jump in demand among the Asia-Pacific carriers–which account for some 40% of the global market–is a good indicator for broader air freight improvements in the coming months.
European airlines reported a demand expansion of 8.0% in November compared to a year earlier. The steady improvement in recent months has come as Europe pulled away from economic contraction in 2013. The recovery in the Eurozone however is likely to remain slow and fragile and the growth in the region has proved to be uneven across countries.
North American carriers reported a 2.5% year-on-year improvement in freight demand. This is down from a rise of 5.3% in October but a definite improvement over the year-to-date performance, which is a contraction of 0.4% compared to the first 11 months of 2012. Business activity indicators in the manufacturing sector have been improving in recent months, recovering from any adverse impacts of the government shutdown in October. Nonetheless, the outlook remains challenging - rates of expansion are considerably lower than they were at the beginning of 2013.
Middle Eastern carriers reported the strongest performance with a 16.5% year-on-year growth in demand for November 2013 over the previous year. Carriers in the Middle East have benefited from improvements in advanced economies, including better demand in Europe, as well as solid economic and trade growth in the Gulf area. The trend is likely to continue with indicators showing record high export orders in the United Arab Emirates, which bodes well for continued growth in the region’s trade volumes.
Latin American airlines experienced a slight year-on-year decline in freight demand of 0.1% in November, following a 2.0% increase in October. However, the growth rate of 3.2% during the first 11 months of 2013 is the second-fastest among the regions. Air freight demand has been supported by solid growth in Latin American trade volumes, but contained by the sluggish performance of Brazil, the region’s largest market.
African carriers registered a contraction of 1.2% for freight demand in November compared to a year ago. After a solid start to the year, growth in air freight carried by African airlines weakened from the middle of 2013. Although the region’s trade volumes continue to increase and local economies are experiencing fast growth, competition from airlines outside the region is intense and the lack of adequate infrastructure and political stability continue to hinder growth potential.