The global airfreight industry recorded its strongest month "in a very long time" last February, as volumes rose sharply thanks to the timing of Chinese New Year and the knock-on effect of US west coast port strikes, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.
IATA data showed global growth measured by freight tonne kilometers (FTK) was up 11.7 per cent in February, compared to February 2014. Capacity grew 7.4 per cent.
Asia-Pacific carriers recorded the greatest volume growth of 20.8 per cent year-on-year, with Japanese carriers, in particular, benefitting from the modal shift owing to congested sea ports in the US.
“A combination of factors made February the strongest month in a very long time for air freight," said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO. "Nobody expects growth to continue at this pace. As we look forward, however, there is room for optimism. Business confidence improved slightly and trade continues to grow. The year is shaping up in line with a growth expectation of 4-5 per cent.”
European airlines reported a 1.1 per cent rise in FTKs.
"The European economy remains in the doldrums, and the effects of the Russian sanctions and the region’s recession continue to dampen demand," IATA said. There is some sign of improvement in manufacturing output, which could lead to stronger air cargo growth in the months to come. Capacity grew 2.4 per cent.
North American carriers grew 8.7 per cent year-on-year. The region’s airlines also benefitted from the congestion at US west coast ports.
"The fundamentals of the US economy show employment, consumer and business confidence all improving, which should underpin volume growth even after the ports issue is resolved," IATA said. Capacity grew 0.7 per cent.
Middle Eastern carriers expanded FTKs by 17.6 per cent. The region’s carriers continue to benefit from their strong geographic base, and have further gained by expanding their networks and encouraging freight to transit through their hubs, IATA said. Capacity grew 19.2 per cent.
Latin American airlines’ air freight volumes, meanwhile, sharply declined by 9.6 per cent in February, due to the struggles of the Brazilian and Argentinian economies.
African airlines reported 8.3 per cent growth in FTKs in February despite weakness in the Nigerian and South African economies. Capacity grew 3.8 per cent.