IATA: 2019 worst year for air freight demand since 2009

Lufthansa Cargo ©AirTeamImages

IATA, the International Air Transport Association, has released full-year 2019 data for global air freight markets showing that demand, measured in freight ton kilometers (FTKs), fell by 3.3% compared to 2018 while capacity (AFTK) rose by 2.1%. This was the first year of declining freight volumes since 2012, and the weakest performance since the global financial crisis in 2009 (when air freight markets contracted by 9.7%).

In the month of December, cargo volumes contracted 2.7% year-on-year while capacity rose 2.8%.

Air cargo’s performance in 2019 was dampened by weak growth in global trade of just 0.9%. The sector’s under-performance was also due in particular to slowing GDP growth in manufacturing-intensive economies. Softer business and consumer confidence, along with falling export orders, also contributed to air freight struggles.

There are signs that confidence and orders could pick up in 2020. It is too early to say what long-term effects will be seen from the impact of restrictions associated with combatting the coronavirus outbreak.

All markets except Africa suffered volume declines in 2019. Asia-Pacific retained the largest share of FTKs, at 34.6%. The share of freight traffic increased modestly for both North America and Europe, to 24.2% and 23.7%, respectively. Middle East carriers’ traffic share held steady at 13%. Africa and Latin America saw their shares lift marginally, to 1.8% and 2.8%.

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