Air freight demand soars

Two weeks ago, when we looked at the first reports of May cargo data from some of the big carriers, airports, and handlers, the almost universal upward trend of growth compared to April led us to predict that when WorldACD and IATA published their complete worldwide summaries at the end of the month we would see growth back in double digits – perhaps not quite as strong as we saw in March, but well up from the not-quite-10% in April.

Well, the end of the month has arrived, and so has WorldACD’s summary of May cargo volume and yield. And, yes, demand growth was almost as strong as we saw in March: Volume, measured in chargeable weight, was up 12.8%, and traffic, measured in direct tonne kilometers, rose 13.8%. As can be seen in the chart above, yields also continued to strengthen, up 5% over May 2016.

In its analysis, WorldACD pointed out something both interesting and important – the big gain was not driven by e-commerce. WorldACD said the largest growth was in shipments weighing more than 1,000 kilograms. Perhaps some of those 1-tonne shipments ended up in Amazon fulfilment centers, but, to quote WorldACD, “e-commerce is definitely not a matter of individual small parcels flying across the globe.”

On a regional basis, growth was strongest in the Asia-Pacific region, which has seen double-digit year-over-year volume increases for the last four months, followed by Europe and North America. Latin America appears to be recovering from the economic mess it has been in for many years, and demand for air freight in the region is beginning to grow, while demand lags in Africa and the Middle East.

How long can demand growth continue at this level? Obviously, not forever, but the trend appears to have continued through June, and, with predictions of a strong peak now being published, it looks like 2017 will be a good. year.

Join us at the Cargo Facts Symposium in October to see how the third quarter played out, and hear the thoughts of top industry executives about the future. For more information, or to register, visit 

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