The International Air Transport Association released its air freight market analysis for August 2015, showing a very slight (0.2%) overall year-over-year increase in worldwide cargo traffic (in freight tonne kilometers flown). On a regional basis, results varied from a 7.3% y-o-y decline in traffic reported by Latin American carriers, to a 10.4% gain for carriers in the Middle East. The slight overall gain was the result of a 0.5% increase in international traffic overcoming a 1.3% decline in domestic traffic.
For the first eight months of 2015, IATA said worldwide air cargo traffic was up 2.6%, led by 2.9% growth in international traffic, while domestic traffic was up just 0.5%. In the first two months of the year, when labor strife at the US West Coast ports, and a massive automobile recall in the US drove shippers to shift goods from ocean to air, overall traffic was up 7.5%, but since then it has become clear that underlying growth in air freight traffic is fairly weak. Year-over-year growth was 1.6% in March, 3.3% in April, 2.1% in May, 1.2% in June, -0.6% in July, and, as mentioned above, 0.2% in August.
However, as IATA points out, even these low growth figures are misleading, because, despite the return to positive territory after the decline in July, “all is not well. Total volumes are down 2% compared to the end of 2014. And some of the key reasons for the earlier weakness – for example, downgraded growth expectations in emerging Asia, and the rebalancing the Chinese economy toward domestic consumption – are still there.”
On a more positive note, IATA added that world trade volumes have recently begun to pick up, if only slightly, but cautioned: “The industry will have to work hard to match the strong finish to 2014.” To which we would add that, while the industry can work hard on things like customer service, much of the demand side of the equation is in the hands of shippers and forwarders, or dependent on economic developments completely outside of the air freight industry’s control.
Turning from traffic to yield, data from Netherlands-based WorldACD show that despite a slight growth in volume in August, air cargo yields fell by 17.8% y-o-y. Bad news? Not necessarily, as the drop in yield is largely the result of falling fuel surcharges (reflecting an almost 50% year-over-year decline in fuel prices), and should not affect carriers’ bottom lines.
WorldACD also said August cargo volume (measured in chargeable weight carried) was up 0.9% y-o-y – not much different from IATA’s report of a 0.2% increase in traffic (measured in FTKs).
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