Airlines on the African continent have recorded a 19.8 per cent growth rate in air freight amid a global decline in freight volumes.
The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA), latest data for global air freight markets showed that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs), decreased by 1.1 per cent in November 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This marks the 13th consecutive month of year-on-year declines in freight volumes.
African carriers posted the fastest growth of any region in November 2019, with an increase in demand of 19.8 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.
Strong trade and investment links with Asia contributed to positive performance. Capacity grew 13.7 per cent year-on-year in the African region. Europe and Africa were the only regions to record growth in air freight demand compared to November 2018.
Despite the decline in global demand, November’s performance was the best in eight months, with the slowest year-on-year rate of contraction recorded since March 2019.
In part, November’s outcome reflects the growing importance of large e-commerce events such as Singles Day in Asia and Black Friday.
While international e-commerce continues to grow, overall air cargo demand continues to face headwinds from the effects of the trade war between the U.S. and China, the deterioration in world trade, and a broad-based slowing in global economic growth.
IATA’s Director-General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alexandre de Juniac, said demand for air cargo in November was down 1.1 per cent compared to the previous year.
“That’s better than the 3.5 per cent decline posted in October. But it is a big disappointment considering that the fourth quarter is usually air cargo’s peak season.
“Looking forward, signs of a thawing in U.S.-China trade tensions are good news. But trading conditions at present remain very challenging,” de Juniac said.
Freight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), rose by 2.9 per cent year-on-year in November 2019. Capacity growth has now outstripped demand growth for 19 consecutive months.
Airlines in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East suffered sharp declines in year-on-year growth in total air freight volumes in November 2019, while North American carriers experienced a more moderate decline.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for air freight contract by 3.7 per cent in November 2019, compared to the year-earlier period. This was the sharpest drop in freight demand of any region for the month. Capacity increased by 1.8 per cent.
The U.S.-China trade war has significantly affected the region, with demand on the large Asia-North America market down 6.5 per cent year-on-year in October (latest available data). However, the thawing of US-China trade relations and robust economic growth in key regional economies are positive developments.
North American airlines saw demand decrease by 1.1 per cent in November 2019, compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 3.3 per cent. Slower growth in the US economy and trade tensions with China have affected demand.
However, positive progress in trade negotiations between both countries highlighted by the ‘phase one’ deal is a positive development.
European airlines posted a 2.6 per cent increase in freight demand in November 2019 compared to the same period a year earlier. Better than expected economic activity in the third quarter in some of the region’s large economies helped support demand. Capacity increased by 4.0 per cent year-on-year.
Middle Eastern airlines’ freight volumes decreased 3.0 per cent in November 2019 compared to the year-ago period – a significant improvement over the 5.7 per cent decrease in October. Capacity increased by 2.6 per cent.
Against a backdrop of operational and geopolitical challenges facing some of the region’s key airlines, seasonally-adjusted freight volumes in the region have continued a modest upwards trend, which is a positive development for the region’s carriers. However, escalating geopolitical tensions threaten the regions’ carriers in the period ahead.
Latin American airlines experienced a decrease in freight demand in November 2019 of 3.4 per cent compared to November 2018. Various social and economic headwinds in the region’s key economies have impacted the region’s air cargo performance. Capacity decreased by 2.3 per cent year-on-year.