Global air cargo traffic shrank 3.5 percent in October from a year ago, declined 2.2 percent from September and is set to shrink further in the coming months, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Airlines are managing a softer passenger market by limiting capacity growth “but the rapid decline in freight traffic is outrunning the industry’s ability to respond,” said IATA Chief Executive Tony Tyler.
Carriers trimmed cargo capacity by 0.9 percent in October from September levels but this was insufficient to offset lower demand, resulting in the global freight load factor dipping 0.6 percentage points to 46.1 percent in October from a year ago.
“The weakness in business confidence has eased over recent months, but the fall in air freight markets suggests that the decline in world trade and global economic growth may not have bottomed out yet, and the weak demand environment for air travel and freight markets could continue in the months to come,” IATA said.
Asia-Pacific airlines suffered the steepest decline, with October traffic down 6.8 percent from a year earlier, while capacity was cut 4.6 percent. The region accounts for two thirds of the fall in global air freight in the past three months as demand for Asian exports declines in a weak global economy.
Middle East carriers continued to buck the downward global trend with traffic surging 13.4 percent, outpacing an 8.6 percent increase in capacity to boost the load factor by two percentage points to 46.4 percent.
North American demand slipped 5.3 percent on 5.4 percent less capacity. European demand was down 4.3 percent but carriers only culled 1.7 percent of capacity from October 2011.
Latin American traffic increased 0.9 percent but the region’s airlines pumped up capacity by 8.6 percent. African demand slipped 0.5 percent while capacity was 2.7 percent higher, further cutting the load factor to just 26.6 percent, the lowest in any region.
Hurricane Sandy cost the global industry at least $500 million, but international passenger traffic grew 3.2 percent in October from a year ago, according to IATA.