The latest statistics from airlines and airports reinforce what we already know: The air freight market is in a protracted recession. But filtering the data for seasonal fluctuations paints a slightly more optimistic picture.
September marked the 11th consecutive month of year-over-year declines in freight volumes, the longest period in a decade. Freight volume, measured in freight ton kilometers (FTKs), decreased 4.5% compared to the same month in 2018, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as key economies soften and global trade disputes suppress imports and exports. Decreased demand coincided with a 2.1% increase in capacity — the 17th consecutive month that growth in supply has exceeded demand — further solidifying the buyer’s market.
The Institute of Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers Index shows that new export orders are still contracting, although at a slower rate than in August. Export orders tend to indicate growth in global FTKs.
IATA’s Nov. 6 figures follow a 4.2% drop in FTKs in August, although IATA notes that on a seasonally adjusted basis, air freight has been relatively flat since March.
Most of the decline in air freight volumes occurred in late 2018 and early 2019, with the downward trend having plateaued since then. “If the current trend is continued in the monthly outcomes, the year-on-year growth rate will return to positive territory in the early part of next year,” IATA said in its monthly freight report.
Airlines in Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and the Middle East suffered sharp declines in year-on-year growth in total air freight volumes in September, while Latin American carriers experienced a more moderate decline. Africa was the only region to record growth in air freight demand for the month.The Chinese government is continuing to deal with large political protests in Hong Kong, and disruptions there exacerbated the 5.9% loss of air cargo in Asia-Pacific.
IATA’s report follows by a week Airports Council International data that freight volume in metric tons fell 5% in August compared to the same month last year and was down 2.9% for the first eight months of the year.
U.K. consultancy Transport Intelligence now forecasts the airfreight forwarding market will shrink 3.9% this year.