International air cargo traffic has stabilized after a year-long slump despite an 8.1 decline in January volume, which was caused by the closing of factories during the Chinese New Year holiday, the International Air Transport Association said.
There was a 2.5 percent drop in freight traffic from December to January but this too was “almost totally” attributable to the impact of Chinese factory closures, said the airline industry body. The decline in global air freight stabilized in the fourth quarter at a level 4 percent below the 2008 pre-crisis peak.
“It appears that freight markets have stabilized, albeit at weak levels. And this is having a positive impact on business-related travel,” said IATA CEO Tony Tyler. “However, airlines face two big risks: rising oil prices and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Both are hanging over the industry’s fortunes like the sword of Damocles.”
Freight capacity contracted by 0.6 percent year-over-year in January, and the load factor fell to 41 percent from 44.3 percent a year ago as deliveries of new wide body passenger aircraft offset reduced freighter capacity. Asia-Pacific and European airlines bore the brunt of the downturn in January with traffic down 14 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, from a year ago.
In addition to the Chinese New Year factory closures, the peripheral economies of Europe are in recession and attracting little inbound freight, IATA said. Until recently this had been offset by strong outbound traffic flows from northern Europe.
Middle East carriers enjoyed a 9.4 percent increase in demand in January, while Latin American airlines carried 2.2 percent more cargo than a year ago. North American carriers’ volume was down 4 percent and African airlines suffered a 3.7 percent decline.
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