Air Freight Looks Bad and Getting Worse

With the most recent figures now available, those of May, although there was a 6% growth in passenger traffic cargo figures showed a 1.3% decline, according the International Air Transport Association (IATA). According to the Association, during the month costs for jet fuel were $160 per barrel, some 87% higher than the same period last year.

IATA is pointing to the impact of the earthquake in China and a weak Japanese economy for the overall slowdown since those two factors accounted for a 0.5% decline in Asian carrier freight traffic. Adding to the woes of Asian carriers was significant competition from US carriers able to leverage the weakening American dollar. During all of 2007, overall cargo demand was up 4.3%, while through the first five months of 2008 air freight volumes were up just 2.8%. Here are IATA’s regional statistics and insights:

• North American cargo traffic grew 4.6% as US carriers shifted capacity from domestic to international routes. In addition to expanded transpacific opportunities, the US-EU Open Skies agreement created new opportunities in Europe.

• Europe recorded a sluggish 1.4% increase. The strong Euro is damaging competitiveness for both European exports and the European air cargo business.

• Latin America freight volumes contracted 13.2%. Industry restructuring saw the replacement of retiring wide-body aircraft with narrow-bodies with limited cargo capacity.

• Africa recorded its 11th month of air freight contraction out of the past 12 months with a fall of 6.5% during May as industry restructuring removes freight capacity.

• The lone bright spot was the Middle East where volumes rose 10.7% on the back of oil-based economic growth.

Slowing is evident around the globe. Figures from Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) indicate a slowing of air freight. While cargo throughput climbed 2.4% in June to 312,000 tonnes, that increase was driven by transshipments. Unloaded cargo was up just 0.9% in June to 115,000 tonnes, while loaded traffic rose 3.2% to 197,000 tonnes. The airport notes that such declines are consistent with declines in foreign commerce between China and its trading partners in the month.

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