November air freight figures mark 13 months of decline

January 09, 2020
freight Boeing
Photo: Qantas

The prospect of the holiday season failed to push global air freight growth into positive territory in November as the industry volumes experienced their 13th consecutive month of year-on-year declines.

The November decline of 1.1 percent compared to 2018 marked the best performance in eight months and was boosted by the growing importance of e-commerce events such as Singles day in Asia and Black Friday.

But freight operators continued to face headwinds from the trade war between the US and China, the deterioration in world trade and the slowing in global economic growth, according to the International Air Transport Association.

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Global freight capacity continued to grow, rising 2.9 percent to mark the 19th month where capacity had outstripped demand.

IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said the November decline was better than the 3.5 percent fall seen in October.

“But it is a big disappointment considering that the fourth quarter is usually air cargo’s peak season,’’ he said.

“Looking forward, signs of a thawing in US-China trade tensions are good news. But trading conditions at present remain very challenging.”

The Asia-Pacific region saw the biggest decline of 3.7 percent as it continued to be buffeted by US-China trade tensions.

However, IATA noted the thawing of trade relations and robust growth in key regional economies were positive developments.

Other regions to suffer sharp demand declines included the Middle East (down 3 percent) and Latin America (down 3.4 percent).

IATA warned that growth in the Middle East, which had seen a modest upward seasonally-adjusted freight trend, could be threatened by escalating geopolitical tensions.

The North American decline was in line with the global average at 1.1 percent while demand grew 2.6 percent in Europe thanks to better than expected third-quarter economic activity in some big economies.

Africa proved the big winner with a 19.8 percent surge in demand attributed to strong investment links with Asia.