News & Industry Affairs / IATA

December 2019 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Air freight volumes down 3.3% in 2019; 1st decline since 2012


  • Industry-wide freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) contracted by 3.3% in 2019. This is the first year of declining freight volumes since 2012 and the weakest outcome since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2009.
  • International trade tensions resulted in only weak growth in global goods trade (+0.9%) in 2019 and were a key factor behind the decline in air freight volumes.
  • Available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs) increased by a moderate 2.1% in 2019, leading to a 2.6 percentage point fall in the load factor.
  • International FTKs contracted in all regions except Africa in 2019.

Africa delivers the strongest growth in 2019
International freight volumes for African carriers grew by a robust 7.7% in 2019, stepping up from -0.1% in 2018. In year-on-year terms to December, Africa recorded a brisk double-digit growth rate of 10.7%. Over the year, air cargo volumes have been supported by strong capacity growth and investment linkages with Asia.

Freight volumes end the year on a weak note…

In December, industry-wide freight tonnes kilometres contracted by 2.7% year-on-year. However, looking through the regular monthly volatility, the seasonally adjusted (SA) freight volume data has confirmed the modest upward trend noted previously.

…underperforming global goods trade in 2019

Total air freight volumes decreased by 3.3% in 2019 as a whole, compared with 2018. This is the first decline in annual FTKs since 2012 and the weakest outcome since the GFC in 2009. Global trade wars and slowing demand have impacted all forms of trade, with global goods trade expanding by a subdued 0.9% year-on-year in 2019 – here too, the weakest outcome since 2009.
    Various factors contributed to the underperformance of air cargo this year, compared with global trade outcomes. A number of manufacturing sectors, where air freight is relied upon for the timely distribution of spare parts and high-value inputs – experienced weak demand conditions. Indeed, some manufacturingintensive economies reported weak GDP growth mainly on account of that sector. Highlighting this, the new export orders component of the global manufacturing PMI – a reliable leading indicator of air freight demand – trended in territory associated with deteriorating conditions throughout the year... 
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