Global air freight markets are slowly stabilizing, propelled by activity at the end of 2012, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The group has anticipated a growth in air freight demand of 1.4 percent this year.
Air cargo demand was up by 5 percent in January, year over year, but fell by 0.9 percent when compared with December. IATA pointed out that the year-over-year numbers are likely skewed because of the timing of the Chinese New Year, which occurred in January last year and happened in February in 2013.
Capacity rose by 2.1 percent in January, year over year. The load factor finished the month at 41.9 percent.
Asia-Pacific carriers saw the biggest overall demand growth in January at 7.1 percent on a capacity decrease of 0.4 percent, but analysts estimate that growth only really comes out to 3 percent after an adjustment is made for the Chinese New Year. Even then, exports out of South Korea and Chinese Taipei are strong. Carriers in the Middle East saw a 16.3-percent demand increase, year over year, that was offset by a 12.4-percent rise in capacity. Traffic to West Africa and Asia is fueling Middle Eastern activity.
North American airlines experienced a 0.6-percent uptick in demand on a 1 percent capacity decline. A demand growth in Europe of 1.2 percent was wiped out by a 2.4-percent increase in capacity.
In Africa, airlines’ 3.7-percent increase in demand was far outstripped by a staggering 13.9-percent rise in capacity. Latin American airlines saw a decrease in demand of 1.6 percent coupled with a 10.2-percent rise in capacity.
Air freight is trying to regain its luster, but Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and chief executive, said it’s hard to be overly optimistic about prospects in the near term. For the most part, declines in demand throughout the world have ceased, but with load factors still slow and an economy that is less than healthy, the air cargo business is still not on stable footing.
“The challenge is sustainable business growth. Headwinds presented by the fragile global economic situation are strong,” he said in a statement. “But if governments and all the players of the value chain are aligned, there is much that can be done to improve the competitiveness of the global air cargo industry.” - Jon Ross