Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets showing a 3.2% expansion in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) in January 2015 compared to the same month last year. The growth is slower than the average of 4.5% recorded for 2014.

There was much regional variation in the January performance. Asia-Pacific, African and Middle Eastern airlines expanded strongly, but airlines in Europe and North and Latin America all reported demand contractions. Although it is too early to be certain of a trend towards weaker air freight, there are at least two emerging factors which could negatively impact demand for air cargo in the coming months:

  • Business confidence has been declining since mid-2014 and export orders tailed-off towards the end of the year
  • A reversal of the positive trade-to-domestic production ratio which boosted cargo volumes last year

“January was a disappointing start to the year for air cargo. And it is difficult to be too optimistic about the rest of the year given the economic headwinds in Europe and growing concerns over the Chinese economy. Add to that the continuing trends of on-shoring production and trade protectionism and 2015 is shaping up to be another tough year for air cargo,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Jan 2015 vs. Jan 2014 FTK Growth AFTK Growth FLF
International 3.9% 6.0% 45.5
Domestic -0.9% -3.5% 30.7
Total Market 3.2% 4.1% 42.8
2014 vs. 2013 FTK Growth AFTK Growth FLF
International 4.8% 4.2% 49.2
Domestic 2.8% 1.8% 31.1
Total Market 4.5% 3.7% 45.7

Regional analysis in detail

Asia-Pacific carriers grew their FTKs 6.9% compared to January 2014, supported by an improvement in regional import activity. Japan’s expansion is helping regional volumes, but there could be concerns over the Chinese economy, which saw export orders contracting at the fastest pace in three years. Capacity rose 5.4%.

European airlines saw volumes fall 1.2% compared to a year ago. The Eurozone is facing deflationary economic headwinds and the weakness of the Russian economy is also impacting demand. Weak home demand is not being offset by North Atlantic and Asian growth opportunities. Capacity grew 3.6%, further weakening the load factor.

North American carriers experienced a 1.0% fall in FTKs. This decrease, however, is most likely due to the strong result that occurred in January 2014. Underlying trends for North American volumes are positive. Trade is growing and the month-to-month comparison of FTKs shows expansion in January compared to December. Capacity fell 2.8%, continuing the recent trend of improving load factor.

Middle Eastern carriers expanded FTKs 9.2%. The hub strategies of the leading airlines in the region are proving successful as network and capacity expansions help satisfy demand on international routes and serve inward trade to Middle Eastern economies. Capacity jumped 18.1%.

Latin American airlines suffered a 6.4% fall in FTKs compared to January 2014. The region continues to be affected by the weakness in the key economies of Brazil and Argentina. Although other Latin American markets have increased regional trade in recent months, this has not yet translated into increased air freight demand. Capacity fell 2.0%.

African airlines grew cargo volumes 5.2%. While major economies such as Nigeria and South Africa are under-performing, regional trade activity is holding up. Capacity rose just 2.4%, strengthening the load factor.

World Cargo Symposium

The World Cargo Symposium will gather leaders from across the cargo value chain in Shanghai, China, from 10-12 March. “The global air cargo industry continues to face challenges. While vulnerability to the economic cycles is beyond the control of any business sector, it is clear that the air cargo industry needs to do a better job of improving its value proposition. Shippers rightly demand modern processes. Taking e-air waybill penetration above 22% in 2014 was a strong signal that the e-cargo revolution is finally taking shape. This year’s World Cargo Symposium is an opportunity for the entire industry to sharpen further its focus on innovation, efficiency and high-quality service,” said Tyler.

View January freight results (pdf)

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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 250 airlines comprising 84% of global air traffic.
  • All figures are provisional and represent total reporting at time of publication plus estimates for missing data. Historic figures may be revised.
  • 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
  • IATA statistics cover international and domestic scheduled air freight for IATA member and non-member airlines.
  • Total freight traffic market shares by region of carriers in terms of FTK are: Asia-Pacific 40.3%, Europe 21.6%, North America 20.7%, Middle East 13.1%, Latin America 2.8%, Africa 1.5%.