IATA records weakening air freight markets in March

By Freddie Pierce
Air freight markets weakened in March, according to IATA, as the improvement in air cargo growth rates that began at the end of 2012 stalled. Global Fr...

Air freight markets weakened in March, according to IATA, as the improvement in air cargo growth rates that began at the end of 2012 stalled.

Global Freight Tonne Kilometers (FTKs) were down 2.3 percent in March compared to March 2012, with only the Middle East and Africa showing an expansion. Asia-Pacific carriers, which comprise 38.5 percent of the market, experienced a 3.3 percent fall compared to the previous year - this region showed the greatest weakness in terms of actual freight volumes. The US and Europe, however had larger percentage falls (5.2 percent and 4.0 percent respectively), but on a smaller market share. 

Global air freight volumes are now only 1.5 percent above the October 2012 low point, down from the 3.5 percent rise that had been reached in January.

“The March decline in air cargo is most likely a temporary stall. The fundamentals for a sustained improvement in air cargo volumes are in place. Business confidence continues to signal forthcoming expansion, and the solid increase in new export orders seen in 2013 should boost air freight in the coming months. Much of the current weakness is coming from Asia-Pacific airlines. While the region is economically strong, the economies of its trading partners are not. The Eurozone is showing renewed weakness and the negative impact of US budget cuts is yet to be fully measured,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Explanation of measurement terms:

FTK: Freight Tonne Kilometers measures actual freight traffic

AFTK: Available Freight Tonne Kilometers measures available total freight capacity

FLF: Freight Load Factor is % of AFTKs used

Regional highlights

After adjusting for seasonal factors, it is clear that the improving trend witnessed in the fourth quarter of 2012 has been reversed. The global load factor slipped marginally to 46.7 percent, and capacity fell by 0.3 percent.

Asia-Pacific carriers saw cargo traffic fall 3.3 percent compared to March 2012. Airlines in the region have experienced most of the weakness in the global trend, with a 3 percent drop in volumes in March compared to January this year. Although regional indicators are still solid, major trade partners in Europe continue to be hampered by economic weakness and sovereign debt problems. Capacity also fell, down 2.8 percent, compared to a year ago.

North American airlines experienced a 5.2 percent decline in demand, the steepest fall of any region. Capacity was reduced by 2.7 percent. While domestic demand has supported regional cargo carriers, routes to Europe have been hit by declines in export markets.

European cargo markets fell 4.0 percent and capacity grew 0.4 percent. Several European confidence indicators declined in March and much of Western Europe remains in or close to recession.

Middle East airlines’ cargo traffic grew 10.5 percent, continuing their remarkable start to 2013. The region has grown 12.4 percent faster for the year to date compared with the same period last year. In March, capacity was up 9.1 percent.

Latin American carriers saw demand fall 0.8 percent while capacity grew 2.6 percent. The underlying economic growth trend in the region is still solid and airlines are maintaining the improvement in demand since late 2012. Export growth to North America and China is supporting international freight routes.

African cargo markets grew 3.2 percent, benefitting from strong growth in regional developing economies. Capacity, however, grew by 10.0% which led to the load factor declining to 25.0 percent, the lowest of all regions. 


IATA statistics cover international and domestic scheduled air traffic for IATA member and non-member airlines.

All figures are provisional and represent total reporting at time of publication plus estimates for missing data. Historic figures may be revised.

Total freight traffic market shares by region of carriers in terms of FTK are: Asia-Pacific 38.5%, North America 23.3%, Europe 21.5%, Middle East 12.5%, Latin America 3.1%, Africa 1.2%.


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