IATA reports May cargo traffic almost flat with 2012

The International Air Transport Association published its analysis of air freight demand for May, showing total worldwide traffic (measured in freight tonne kilometers flown) up 0.8%. Domestic traffic was up 0.6%, but a 0.8% gain in the much larger international traffic raised the overall increase.

When we published our own analysis of May air freight demand two weeks ago we said that based on what we had seen to that point, we expected overall demand for air freight to be up slightly in May, with carriers in the Middle East and Turkey continuing to experience strong growth while carriers elsewhere lost market share. As shown in the chart at right, IATA’s regional breakdown of the May and year-to-date data supports our predictions, with carriers from the Middle East reporting their May traffic up 9.7%, while carriers from other regions reported declines or only slight gains.

As always, though, statistical data can hide as much as it illuminates, and a couple points should be made:

  • While IATA reports European carriers’ cargo traffic up 1.0% in May, we note that three of the biggest cargo carriers in the region reported declines – some of them substantial. Lufthansa’s cargo traffic was down 0.8% for the month, while Air France-KLM and IAG (BA + Iberia) reported declines of 6.4% and 10.8%, respectively. So what drove the overall gain? Looking east – almost all the way to the Middle East – we see that Turkish Airlines’ cargo was up 12.2% in May.
  • What does it mean to talk about cargo traffic flown by Middle Eastern carriers? The region is large, but much of it, while populous, is relatively poor (Egypt, for example), and many countries do not have airlines carrying any significant amount of freight (think Iran and Iraq, for example). The big cargo traffic gains are being made by just a handful of carriers (mainly Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, and Saudia), and while they are based in rich countries, most of what they carry neither originates at home nor is destined for home. A considerable portion of it is Asia-Europe freight (and increasingly, Everywhere-Everywhere freight) that was once flown by the big Asian and European carriers.

And for whatever it’s worth, just as I was about to put this post up, I saw the first results from June. PACTL, the biggest handler at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport reported its June handle down 1.3%.

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