Weaker Economy Slows Cargo's Rise

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that economic volatility was affecting international air freight demand. International air freight grew 3.6% in October, but this is down from the 5% year-on-year growth recorded in September and "partly reverses the strong pick up of freight growth seen in mid-2007."

Year-to-date freight demand has increased 4%, says IATA. Leading indicators like semiconductor shipments and global manufacturing business confidence levels have slowed in recent months, the world air industry group notes. "Demand for air freight is still expected to grow, but at a slower pace for the remainder of the year."

Increased capacity and new route development were credited with a 9% improvement among Middle East carriers in October. Asia Pacific airlines saw growth rates fall from 7% in September to 5.8% in October, due in part to slower growth in semiconductor shipments. European carriers grw 2% and North America posted a 0.6% gain, reflecting strength of competition from other modes and slower US economic growth.

"The numbers show that the fourth quarter will be challenging," said Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of IATA. "Air cargo is still expanding, but the industry has shifted gears to a slower pace of growth."

Despite the slowing growth, "Airlines are still on track to show their first profit since 2001," concluded Bisignani.

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