A 10th consecutive month of year-on-year decline in freight volumes is the longest period experienced by airlines since the global financial crisis in 2008.

cargo temperature

Freight demand fell again in August, according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Air cargo demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), contracted by 3.9% in August 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. 

This marks the 10th consecutive month of year-on-year decline in freight volumes, the longest period since the global financial crisis in 2008. 

Freight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometers (AFTKs), rose by 2% year-on-year in August 2019. Capacity growth has now outstripped demand growth for the 16th consecutive month.

Trade generates prosperity. Trade wars don't. That's something governments should not forget

Air cargo continues to face strong headwinds from the intensifying trade war between the US and China, as well as weakness in some of the key economic indicators and rising political uncertainties worldwide. Global trade volumes are 1% lower than a year ago.

“The impact of the US-China trade war on air freight volumes was the clearest yet in August,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“Not since the global financial crisis in 2008 has demand fallen for 10 consecutive months. This is deeply concerning. And with no signs of a détente on trade, we can expect the tough business environment for air cargo to continue. 

“Trade generates prosperity. Trade wars don't. That's something governments should not forget.”

Trade in emerging countries has been underperforming that of advanced nations throughout most of 2019. This is due to higher sensitivity of the emerging economies to trade tensions, rising political instability and sharp currency depreciation in some of the key emerging markets. 

In the regional markets, Africa and Latin America were the only regions to record growth compared to year-on-year figures. Asia-Pacific and the Middle East in particular suffered sharp declines in freight volumes.

See the breakdown by region below:

  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for air freight contract by 5% in August 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. Air freight capacity increased by 2.3% over the past year. 
  • North American airlines saw demand decrease by 2.4% in August 2019, compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 1.3%.
  • European airlines posted a 3.3% decrease in freight demand in August 2019 compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity increased by 3.3% year-on-year.
  • Middle Eastern airlines' freight volumes decreased 6.7% in August 2019 compared to the year-ago period. This was the sharpest drop in freight demand of any region. Capacity decreased by 0.8%.
  • Latin American airlines experienced an increase in freight demand in August 2019 of 0.1% compared to the same period last year and a capacity decrease of 2.9%.
  • African carriers posted the fastest growth of any region in August 2019, with an increase in demand of 8% compared to the same period a year earlier. Capacity grew 17.1% year-on-year.
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