Global air cargo volumes surged 26 percent in the first quarter from a year ago and revenue grew as much as 40 percent, the International Air Transport Association said.
Airlines and shippers expect the market to remain strong through 2010 although growth likely will slow, the Geneva-based industry group added.
Before the Icelandic volcanic ash plume shut European airspace in April, most regional cargo markets were rebounding “very strongly.”
“Load factors are backed to pre-9/11 utilization rates, yields are rising and the threat of a capacity surge appears to be diminishing,” according to IATA’s latest quarterly market report.
“Cargo profitability is back to pre-recession levels in the U.S. and heads of cargo report a high level of confidence.”
All regions except Africa saw cargo growth of more than 20 percent in the first quarter and freighter traffic returned to pre-recession levels in February.
Shipper confidence rose to very high levels in April and the key semi-conductor sectors continues to grow shipments at an annualized rate of more than 50 percent.
Growth will slow in the second half of the year as the business inventory cycle, the key driver of the recent market recovery, has come to an end.
“Manufacturers and retailers no longer need to ship goods to restock shelves and warehouses,” IATA said. “Freight growth in the second half of 2010 will slow and will depend on how fast consumer and capital spending grows.”
Load factors on international routes have continued to rise, reaching almost 56 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in April in spite of the closure of European airspace.
Air freight has stopped gaining market share from ocean container carriers but a sharp acceleration in world trade growth continues to boost volumes.
Falling prices mean more semi-conductors are being shipped by sea but other electronic goods whose high values have yet to fall will start to take over as the dominant high value/low volume products shipped by air.
The U.S. shipped about 30 percent of its exports by value and 22 percent of its imports by air during the first quarter.
Air Freight Price Index: By the Numbers.
--Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.