Global air freight traffic increased 9.1 percent in January from a year ago, driven by a surge in North America, to outpace growth in the previous two months, the International Air Transport Association reported.
Cargo volume in January was 39 percent above the low point in the depth of the global recession at the end of 2009 and was 6 percent above the pre-recession peak of early 2008, according to the Geneva-based industry.
The January increase compared with year-on-year gains of 7.3 percent in December and 6.9 percent in November.
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Freight traffic has, however, fallen 2 percent since its May 2010 peak at the height of the re-stocking bubble, IATA said in its latest monthly report.
The seasonally adjusted load factor reached 53 percent in January, relatively unchanged from a year ago in all regions. Utilization through January was within the 52-54 percent range since mid-2010 as demand and supply are now stabilizing.
North American carriers reported the biggest increase of 14.1 percent from a year ago. Volume has risen by 11 percent since November and is now 10 percent above pre-recession levels.
Asia-Pacific carriers boosted freight traffic 6.4 percent year on year. This was down from the 7.2 percent increase in December, but volume increased in January, IATA said.
The much weaker economic climate in Europe continued to hold back the recovery in freight traffic in the region, which remains 11 percent below the pre-recession peak.
IATA warned the rise in oil prices triggered by political turmoil in the Middle East threatens the industry's profitability.
IATA's forecast in December that the global airline industry would make a combined profit of $9.1 billion in 2011 on revenue of $598 billion was based on an annual average oil price of $84 per barrel.
"For each dollar it increases [above $84], the industry is challenged to recover $1.6 billion in additional costs," said IATA chief executive Giovanni Bisignani.
North Sea Brent, the benchmark post crude, was trading at around $112 in Europe Monday morning.
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