Global air freight demand to grow 4.5 percent in 2015, IATA says

Global air freight demand to grow 4.5 percent in 2015, IATA says

Global air freight traffic should expand faster than total global trade in 2015, building on the best peak season for air cargo in years, the International Air Transport Association said Jan. 7.

IATA said it expects global air freight demand measured in freight tonne kilometers to increase 4.5 percent over last year, outpacing a projected 4 percent increase in global trade.

“More goods are being traded internationally and that is fueling the growth in air freight,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said in a statement. Most of that growth is being captured by carriers in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, Tyler said.

Air cargo growth stagnated from 2011 as world trade volumes basically grew in tandem with domestic production, according to IATA. Global trade strengthened in the second half of 2014, while domestic industrial production remained stable, boosting air cargo volumes.

IATA forecasts a compound average growth rate for air cargo demand of 4.1 percent over the next five years, but the association argues the air freight industry will have to become leaner, more adaptive and innovative and overcome challenges to maintain that growth rate.

“Freighters will provide critical capacity when the global economy thrives,” Glyn Hughes, global head of cargo for IATA, said in a column in The Journal of Commerce’s 2015 Annual Review & Outlook Issue. “A key challenge for airlines will be to secure flexibility in utilization to ensure freighter capacity is deployed where and when it’s needed.”

The association is also working to shorten door-to-door delivery times for non-express air cargo, which have remained in the six- to seven-day range for decades.

In November, global air freight demand in freight tonne kilometers grew 4.2 percent year-over-year, increasing by 0.8 percent from October, a healthy gain, according to IATA. Air cargo capacity increased 3.3 percent year-over-year in November, the association said.

International FTKs increased 4.6 percent year-over-year, while domestic air freight demand rose only 1.3 percent from the previous November. For the first 11 months of 2014, international air freight demand was up 4.7 percent, and domestic demand 2.7 percent.

Carriers in the Asia-Pacific region and Middle East accounted for 93 percent of the global gain in November, with Asian air cargo carriers accounting for 55 percent of total growth. Asia-Pacific air cargo growth measured in FTKs was 5.9 percent that month, IATA said.  

Middle East airlines accounted for 38 percent of air freight growth, as demand from the region rose 12.9 percent in November, according to IATA. “The region’s efficient hubs continue to provide a strong platform for connecting long-haul freight shipments,” IATA said.

African airlines expanded their FTKs by 10.5 percent, while European airlines saw air freight demand rise only 0.9 percent in November. “Export markets in Asia and North America have potential but this is not outweighing the negative impact of weak home markets,” IATA said.

North American air freight carriers saw FTKs decline 0.3 percent and capacity drop 2.6 percent, even as West Coast port disruption shifted some demand from sea to air. Underlying indicators for the U.S. economy point toward a return to growth, the association said.

Contact William B. Cassidy at and follow him on Twitter: @wbcassidy_joc