Global air cargo volumes decline for the 11th consecutive month, reports IATA

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Nov 8, 2019: IATA air freight data for September 2019 revealed that this is the eleventh consecutive month of year-on-year decline in freight volumes, the longest period since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The air cargo demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), decreased by 4.5 percent year-on-year in September while capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometers (AFTKs), rose by 2.1 percent year-on-year. Capacity growth has now outstripped demand growth for the 17th consecutive month.

IATA blames trade war between the US and China, and South Korea and Japan, deterioration in global trade and weakness in some of the key economic drivers, for such weak volumes.

IATA blames US-China trade war for poor air cargo performance

Region wise, disruptions to Hong Kong International Airport operations, slowdown in Chinese economy, US-China and South Korea-Japan trade wars, have led to 4.9 percent year-on-year decline in air freight volumes for Asia-Pacific Airlines. Capacity increased by 2.7 percent over the past year.  

According to IATA, “With the region accounting for more than 35 percent of total FTKs, this performance is the major contributor to the weak industry-wide outcome.”

For the North America region, US-China trade war and falling business confidence continued to weigh on the carriers. Demand fell by 4.2 percent in September 2019, compared to the same period a year earlier and capacity increased by 1.9 percent. Freight demand has contracted between North America and Europe and between Asia and North America. 

European airlines posted a 3.3 percent decrease in freight demand in September 2019 compared to the same period a year earlier. Weaker manufacturing conditions for exporters in Germany, softer regional economies, and ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, have impacted the recent performance. Capacity increased by 3.3 percent year-on-year. 

Middle Eastern airlines’ freight volumes decreased 8.0 percent in September 2019 compared to the year-ago period. This was the sharpest drop in freight demand of any region. Capacity decreased by 0.4 percent. Most key routes to and from the region have seen weak demand in the past few months. The large Europe to Middle East and Asia to Middle East routes were down 8 percent and 5 percent respectively in August (last data available) compared to a year ago.

Latin American airlines experienced a decrease in freight demand in September 2019 of 0.2 percent compared to the same period last year and a capacity decrease of 2.9 percent. Despite indications of a recovery in the Brazilian economy, deteriorating conditions elsewhere in the region along with a slowing in global trade have impacted the region’s performance. 

The results of the African continent surprise us as the region’s carriers see the fastest growth of any region in September 2019. Air cargo demand increased 2.2 percent year-on-year, due to strong trade and investment linkages with Asia and robust economic performance in some key regional economies. Capacity grew 9.4 percent year-on-year.


“The US-China trade war continues to take its toll on the air cargo industry. October’s pause on tariff hikes between Washington and Beijing is good news. But trillions of dollars of trade is already affected, which helped fuel September’s 4.5 percent year-on-year fall in demand.  And we can expect the tough business environment for air cargo to continue,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and CEO.

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