Global air freight traffic surged 14 percent in March from a year earlier, the fastest monthly growth rate since October 2010, that was driven by an “uptick “ in world trade and a six-year high in new export orders, the International Air Transport Association said.
Available capacity grew by 4.2 percent, boosting the industry’s load factor by 4.1 percentage points to 47.4 percent.
The strong March performance resulted in first quarter traffic growing nearly 11 percent year-over-year while capacity increased by just 3.7 percent, according to the industry body.
Rising shipments of silicon materials typically used in high-value consumer electronics shipped by air is also likely underpinning the rally.
“Optimism is returning to the industry as the business stabilizes after many years in the doldrums,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. “There is, however, still much lost ground to recover while facing the dual headwinds of rising fuel and labor costs.”
“It remains critical to use the improvement in the industry’s fortunes as an opportunity to enhance the value offering by implementing modern customer-centric initiatives that streamline processes and reduce costs.”
All regions, except Latin America, reported year-over-year growth in demand in March, with carriers in Europe and Asia-Pacific accounting for two thirds of the increase in traffic.
Asia-Pacific carriers, which account for 37.5 percent of the global market, grew traffic by 13.6 percent in March, driven by strengthening export order books across the region, while capacity was up just 4.8 percent.
Seasonally adjusted volumes are now back to levels reached in 2010 during the bounceback from the global financial crisis, with demand growing on all key routes to and from Asia in the past six months except on Pacific lanes to North America.
European airlines, which have a 23.5 percent market share, posted an 18.2 percent growth in traffic, almost three times the 6.7 percent rise in capacity.
“The ongoing weakness of the euro persists in boosting the performance of the European freight market, which has benefitted from strong export orders over the last few months,” IATA said.
North American carriers’ total traffic grew 9.5 percent in March and capacity was up just 2.8 percent from a year ago, while international volumes increased 14.2 percent – the fastest pace since the boost to air freight from congestion at US West Coast seaports in 2015.
However, seasonally adjusted volumes have slowed to a near standstill alongside a weakening in demand on Pacific routes, while the strengthening dollar continues to suck in more imports but keeps the export market under pressure.
Middle East airlines saw volumes rise 16.3 percent, but raised capacity only 2.7 percent as demand remains strong on routes to and from Europe, but is weakening on services to Asia.
Latin American carriers remained trapped in a bear run with traffic declining 4.2 percent in March, the 26th decrease in the past 28 months. Seasonally adjusted volume has touched its lowest level since October 2010 and demand is now 18 percent lower than at the peak in 2014.
African airlines’ traffic soared 33.5 percent on strong growth in trade to and from Asia following an increase in direct services between the two continents.
Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org.