News & Industry Affairs / IATA

March 2019 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Air cargo volumes rebound in March, but remain soft


  • Industry-wide freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) for March are marginally higher (up 0.1%) compared with their level of a year ago. Although this represents a sharp turnaround from last month, it would be premature to view this outcome as a change in the recent trend, especially given the typical data volatility in the early months of the year. 
  • Air freight capacity continues to grow moderately, up around 3% year-on-year, which means that the freight load factor is currently 1.5 percentage points lower than a year ago. 
  • All regions showed an improvement in year-on-year growth this month, with Asia Pacific the only region where FTKs are still lower than their level of March 2018. 
  • The weakness in global trade as well as a number of economic and leading industry indicators continue to weigh upon the sector. That said, the industry is more optimistic over the year-ahead outlook than current conditions.

Africa volumes show strong turnaround
A sizeable 14 percentage point turnaround from last month for the African carriers saw the region become the strongest performer in March, with FTKs currently up a brisk 6.3% year-on-year. The relatively small market size (~1.5% of total international FTKs) helps to explain the outsized month-to-month volatility. Looking through this, following strong growth in late 2016 and into 2017 which was only partly unwound last year, SA international FTKs for the African carriers are still around 30% higher than their level of three years ago.

Air cargo volumes rebound in March, but remain soft

Industry-wide FTK growth bounced back sharply this month, with annual growth returning – albeit only just – to positive territory. FTKs are 0.1% higher than their year-ago level in March, compared with the annual fall of 4.9% recorded last month.
    As we have noted previously, the freight data are particularly volatile over the opening months of the year, making it difficult to interpret the month-tomonth movements. 
    With that in mind, the seasonally-adjusted (SA) series shown above is designed to remove the impact of such regular variations. On this basis and despite also improving (modestly) this month, air freight volumes are down 1.5% over the past year, remaining around their level of mid-2017. Since their most recent peak (August 2018), FTKs are down around 4%.
    While this month’s slight improvement in the SA level of FTKs is a positive development after four consecutive months of decline, conditions facing the industry remain challenging. Consequently, it would be premature to suggest that the uptick represents a change in the trend growth rate without first seeing signs of confirmation in coming months.
    Apart from Asia Pacific, all regions made a positive contribution to the annual industry-wide growth performance in March...Download the full document here. 

Back to IATA news >