The latest global air freight market data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that air cargo volumes (measured in freight tonne kilometers or FTKs) suffered a 5.6% fall in February compared to February 2015. IATA notes that the amplitude of the swing is distorted by the impact of the U.S. port strikes in early 2015 (which caused a spike in air freight) and Lunar New Year falling in February this year.
Comparing January/February 2016 performance to January/February 2014 reveals 6.3% volume in growth — equal to a 3.1% annualized growth trend.
Asia-Pacific carriers, which carry almost 39% of all air freight, saw FTKs contract by 12.4% year-over-year in February. While this was the largest drop of any region, it also reflects the region’s carriers having benefited the most from the 2015 US port strike. And the region’s weak trading backdrop was exaggerated by the closure of many factories in Asia for the Lunar New Year Celebration. In February Chinese export values fell 25%.
Middle Eastern carriers were able to continue their consistent growth trend despite the statistical noise, expanding 3.7% in February. Over the past six months the major carriers in the region have cut their rate of route expansion, which may account for the relative slowdown in freight volume growth, according to IATA.
European airlines’ demand fell by 2.4% in February. Business surveys of the region, particularly in Germany, do not give an upbeat assessment of prospects in the region, IATA notes. This is in line with the trend since the Global Financial Crisis: European freight volumes are barely any higher than in 2008.