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November 2018 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Air cargo volumes lost momentum towards the end of 2018


Highlights of the November 2018 Air Freight Market Analysis

  • Having posted annual growth of 3.2% in October, industry-wide freight tonne kilometres (FTK) were unchanged in year-on-year terms in November. 
  • The slowdown in freight demand growth in 2018 has been consistent with the typical pattern following inventory restocking cycles in the past. However, the loss of upward momentum in recent months appears to illustrate the increasing headwinds to freight demand from renewed signs of weakness in global economic activity. 
  • With capacity still trending higher, the industry-wide load factor fell by 2.2 percentage points relative to Nov’ 2017.

Another annual decline for African carriers...
Year-on-year growth in international FTKs flown by African airlines remained in negative territory in November for the eighth time in nine months (-7.1%). All of the major markets to/from the continent have struggled to post positive growth this year. Nonetheless, while the total amount of international FTKs flown by African carriers is still around 7% below its mid-2017 peak in SA terms, it is important to note that volumes are around 28% higher than their most recent trough in late-2015; this corresponds to strong annual growth in the region of 9% over the past three years.


Air cargo volumes lost momentum in late-2018…

Industry-wide FTKs were unchanged in year-on-year terms in November – the slowest growth rate since March 2016. All told, FTKs increased by 3.9% in annual terms over the first 11 months of 2018, compared to 10.0% over the same period a year ago. Much of the moderation in FTK growth that we have seen over the past year or so has reflected the typical pattern seen after inventory restocking cycles in the past. Recall that air freight volumes grew much faster than global goods trade during 2017 as firms turned to the speed afforded by air freight to restock their inventory levels quickly.
   However, the loss of upward momentum in the seasonally adjusted (SA) FTK series towards the end of 2018 appears to illustrate the increasing headwinds to freight demand from renewed signs of weakness in global economic activity and key demand drivers.


…amid growing signs of weakness in the global economy and key demand drivers

These are perhaps most evident in the new export orders component of the global manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which has proven to be a reliable leading indicator of industry-wide FTK growth in the past. The series has now fallen in monthon-month terms in 10 of the last 11 months, and has been below the 50-mark (ie, territory normally associated with falling export orders) since September. At current levels, the indicator continues to suggest that annual FTK growth is unlikely to pick up sharply anytime soon. The country-level data that underlie the global series show that the weakness has been broad-based across major exporters since the middle of 2018. Download the full document here. 

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