The IATA reports that air freight volumes were up 3.3% in April compared to a year ago, which was below the 4.3% expansion seen so far this year. The April result provides a clearer reading of air freight market performance, after holiday and temporary factors impacted year-on-year comparison in Q1, and suggests that there are early signs of a slowdown.
Analysis shows a flattening in the growth trend when looking at the past six months. This means that so far this year, there has been no growth in volumes when compared to late 2014. This development is consistent with a recent trend change in world trade, with volumes shrinking throughout Q1 after solid growth toward the end of 2014.
The main reason for the flattening in the global trend is adverse developments in Asia Pacific. Carriers in Asia Pacific recorded a 4.5% rise in FTK (freight tonne kilometres) in April year-on-year, well below the growth year-to-date, 7.3%. The slowdown is consistent with a reversal in earlier gains in regional trade. Part of the recent decline in emerging Asia exports is reflecting economic weakness in Europe, which dampens demand for manufactured goods shipped by Asia Pacific carriers.
Elsewhere, results have been mixed. Carriers in the Middle East continue to show strong growth, with a rise of 14.1% in April year-on-year, reflecting continued expansion in capacity and network, as well as robust trade with Middle Eastern economies. In Europe, by contrast, air freight volumes carried by regional airlines fell 0.3% in April year-on-year. Recent improvements in business confidence in the Eurozone are yet to translate to increased demand for air freight and consumer confidence remains subdued.
Air freight load factors dipped sharply in April in response to robust growth in capacity. Levels are now the lowest they have been for the past year, on a seasonally adjusted basis. All regions except Africa recorded an increase in capacity in April compared to March.
Acceleration in the air freight growth trend is unlikely in the near term. Globally, April data show no increase in business confidence compared to the start of the year. Furthermore, export orders have shown gradual decline throughout Q1, and are now indicating no growth. That said, for 2015 overall, moderate expansion in air freight is expected alongside anticipated improvements in the global economy.