IATA (the International Air Transport Association) recently published their market analysis for March. Air freight markets weakened during this last month of the first quarter, suggesting that growth rates noted at the end of 2012 have stalled. International markets as a whole saw reductions in both actual freight tonnage (-2.1%) and capacity (-0.3%); but in spite of this slump, the Middle East and Africa saw a growth in traffic, with the former region seeing an increase of a remarkable 10.5%.
African cargo grew by a more modest 3.2%, while every other region saw a fall in traffic of between 0.8% (Latin America) and 5.2% (North America). While the Asia- Pacific region saw a fall of a less dramatic 3.3.%, since this region accounts for 38.5% of the market, the area saw the biggest drop in actual freight volumes. The European market was also flagging, with a traffic reduction of 4%.
Compared to the economic nadir of October 2012, global air freight volumes were up 1.5%. In spite of this relatively low growth, Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO commented: “The March decline in air cargo is most likely a temporary stall. The fundamentals for a sustained improvement in air cargo volumes are in place. Business confidence continues to signal forthcoming expansion, and the solid increase in new export orders seen in 2013 should boost air freight in the coming months."
Speaking of region-specific performance, Tyler said: "Much of the current weakness is coming from Asia-Pacific airlines. While the region is economically strong, the economies of its trading partners are not. The Eurozone is showing renewed weakness and the negative impact of US budget cuts is yet to be fully measured”.
Clearly, the air cargo sector is by no means immune to the vicissitudes of the global economic crisis. Perhaps Matthew Mariott, commercial director of Hellmann Worldwide logistics UK, was correct in stating that the way forward for the industry is low yet sustainable growth.