IATA: Air Freight Growth Slows ; Passenger Demand Accelerates in March, Load Factor Sets Another Record

- Geneva, Switzerland.

Air Freight Growth Slows to 22-Month Low as Restocking Cycle Ends

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets showing that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), rose 1.7% in March 2018, compared to the same period the year before. This was five percentage points lower than the February result and the slowest pace of growth in 22 months.

The year-on-year increase in capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometers (AFTK) fell to 4.4% compared to 6.3% in February. This was the first time in 20 months, however, that annual capacity rose faster than demand.

The sharp growth slowdown is principally due to the end of the restocking cycle, during which businesses rapidly increased their inventory to meet unexpectedly high demand. A softening of global trade is also evident.

"It’s normal that growth slows at the end of a restocking cycle. That clearly has happened. Looking ahead we remain optimistic that air cargo demand will grow by 4-5% this year. But there are obviously some headwinds. Oil prices have risen strongly, and economic growth is patchy. The biggest damage could be political. The implementation of protectionist measures would be an own-goal for all involved—especially the US and China," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.      

March 2018
(% year-on-year)

World share¹

FTK

AFTK

FLF     
(%-pt)²     

FLF
(level)³  

Total Market        

100.0%

1.7%

4.4% 

-1.2%      

46.4%     

Africa

1.9%

-3.4%

25.0%

-6.6%

22.6%

Asia Pacific

36.9%

0.7%

4.6%

-2.1%         

56.1%

Europe             

24.2%             

1.0%

3.4%       

-1.2%         

49.2%             

Latin America         

2.7%

15.5% 

-2.1%  

6.0%   

39.1%           

Middle East             

13.7%

0.8%

4.9%

-1.8%

45.3%

North America 

20.6%

3.9%

3.3%

0.2%

37.4%

¹% of industry FTKs in 2017   ²Year-on-year change in load factor   ³Load factor level              

Regional Performance    

All regions except Latin America reported year-on-year declines in growth in March, with Africa in negative territory.

  • African FTKs fell by 3.4% in March. This result may, however, be influenced by the comparison with unusually strong growth in March 2017. Indeed, Africa has reported the fastest growth of all regions for 17 of the last 18 months, so it would be premature to suggest this is the start of a negative trend.
  • Asia-Pacific carriers reported FTK growth of just 0.7% compared to the same period a year ago. Export orders in Japan and Korea have fallen in recent months and the region remains particularly exposed to the impact of protectionist measures.
  • European airlines FTKs rose 1.0% in March compared to March 2017. A stronger Euro and a softening of export orders in Germany partially explain the result, but the seasonally-adjusted trend in FTKs has been slowing in recent months.
  • Latin American airlines posted growth of 15.5% in March compared to a year ago, the only region to improve on its performance compared to February 2018. Freight volumes in the region have been recovering over the past 18 months, in part due to the better performance of the Brazilian economy.
  • Middle East carriers saw growth of 0.8% in March compared to March 2017. This is consistent with the general weakening in regional performance over recent months, and in particular may reflect an especially strong March 2017 result.
  • North American carriers’ freight volumes expanded 3.9% compared to March 2017. The US inventory-to-sales ratio has risen in 2018, indicating the boost to cargo growth from restocking is over.

 

View March air freight results (pdf) 

Passenger Demand Accelerates in March, Load Factor Sets Another Record

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for March 2018 showing that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) rose 9.5%, compared to the same month a year ago, the fastest pace in 12 months. Capacity (available seat kilometers, or ASKs) grew 6.4% and load factor climbed 2.3 percentage points to 82.4%, which set a record for the month, following on the record set in February. All regions except for the Middle East posted record load factors.

"Demand for air travel remains strong, supported by the comparatively healthy economic backdrop and business confidence levels. But rising cost inputs—particularly fuel prices—suggest that any demand boosts from lower fares will moderate going into the second quarter," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.     

March 2018
(% year-on-year)

World share¹

RPK

ASK

PLF
(%-pt)²         

PLF
(level)³  
        

Total Market

100.0%

9.5%

6.4%

2.3%      

82.4%

Africa

2.2%

6.1%

2.7%

2.3%

71.6%

Asia Pacific

33.7%      

12.0%

9.1%

2.1%

82.3%

Europe

26.5%

9.5%

6.1%

2.6%

83.9%

Latin America

5.2%

8.5%

6.8%      

1.3%

81.3%

Middle East

9.5%

10.6%

4.2%      

4.4%

76.6%

North America

23.0%      

6.3%      

4.1%

1.7%

85.3%

   ¹% of industry RPKs in 2017   ²Year-on-year change in load factor   ³Load factor level   

International Passenger Markets

March international passenger demand rose 10.6% compared to March 2017, which was up from 7.4% year-over-year growth recorded in February. All regions showed strong increases. Total capacity climbed 6.6%, and load factor improved 2.9 percentage points to 81.5%.

  • Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic soared 11.6% in March, compared to the year-ago period. Passenger traffic is continuing to trend upwards, supported by strong regional economic growth and ongoing expansion in the number of airport-pair options for travelers. Capacity increased 8.2%, and load factor rose 2.5 percentage points to 80.9%.
  • European carriers saw March traffic climb 9.8% over March 2017, up from 6.9% annual growth in February. Business confidence in the most-open countries in the region has been hit by trade tensions in recent months, but economic conditions remain broadly supportive. As with Asia-Pacific region, demand is also being stimulated by increases in the number of nonstop airport-pairs. March capacity rose 6.4% and load factor was up 2.6 percentage points to 84.6%, highest among regions. 
  • Middle East carriers’ traffic jumped 10.7% in March, much improved from the 4.1% year-over-year increase recorded in February. This reflects healthy growth in the market between the Middle East and Asia. Demand also shows signs of stabilization on Middle East to North America routes, following the disruption caused in the first half of 2017 by the now-lifted ban on large portable electronic devices, as well as a wider impact stemming from the proposed travel restrictions to the US. Capacity increased 4.3%, and load factor jumped 4.4 percentage points to 76.7%.
  • North American airlines posted a 9.5% traffic rise in March compared to the year-ago period, well above the 5-year average growth rate of 3.6%. Capacity climbed 4.9% and load factor was up 3.5 percentage points to 83.5%, which was the second highest among the regions. The weakening US dollar is having a positive effect on inbound traffic, while the comparatively robust domestic economic backdrop is supporting outbound demand.
  • Latin American airlines had an 11.8% increase in March traffic, which was the largest increase among the regions for a third month in a row. March capacity climbed 10.0% compared to a year ago, and load factor edged up 1.3 percentage points to 81.8%. Traffic continues to recover from the disruptions caused by the harsh hurricane season in the third quarter of 2017, driven in part by economic recovery in Brazil.
  • African airlines continued to enjoy very strong demand as well, with traffic up 11.2% compared to March 2017, which was more than twice the 5-year average pace of 4.8%. Airlines here are seeing healthy growth on routes to/from Europe and Asia, while the region’s two largest economies—Nigeria and South Africa—continue to improve. Capacity climbed 6.7%, and load factor strengthened 2.9 percentage points to 71.0%.

Domestic Passenger Markets       

Domestic demand rose 7.8% in March, which was a slight deceleration from 8.2% growth recorded in February, driven primarily by developments in the US market. Domestic capacity climbed 6.2%, and load factor lifted 1.3 percentage points to 84.0%.    

March 2018
(% year-on-year)       

World share¹

RPK

ASK

PLF     
(%-pt)²     

PLF
(level)³  

Domestic

36.2%     

7.8%

6.2%    

1.3%      

84.0% 

Australia

0.9%

3.6%

0.0%

2.7%

78.9%

Brazil 

1.2%

2.3%

0.8%

1.2%

80.2%

China P.R             

9.1%

15.0%

13.8%       

0.9%

85.2%             

India             

1.4%

27.9%

18.1%

6.7%

87.8%

Japan             

1.1%

0.9%

1.2%             

-0.2%

74.7%

Russian Fed.             

1.4%

5.9%         

3.1% 

2.1%           

78.1%

US

14.5%

4.7%      

3.7%

0.8%

86.5%

¹% of industry RPKs in 2017   ²Year-on-year change in load factor   ³Load factor level  *Note: the seven domestic passenger markets for which broken-down data are available account for 30% of global total RPKs and approximately 82% of total domestic RPKs                               

  • US domestic growth slowed to 4.7% in March, compared to 6.1% year-over-year growth recorded in February. This had been anticipated and relates more to traffic trends last year than to any specific weakening in the US market.
  • China’s domestic traffic grew 15% in March compared to the year-ago period. This was the strongest pace in five months and is being supported by growth in the services sector.

The Bottom line      

"The strong first quarter provides healthy momentum heading into the peak travel period in the Northern Hemisphere. Benign economic conditions are supporting—and being supported by—good demand for air travel. It’s a mutually-beneficial effect that smart governments recognize and encourage, by embracing affordable, quality aviation infrastructure and reasonable commercial regulation. But we need to deliver that message every day. The setback to modernizing air traffic management in the US, and a proposal to stop construction of the new airport in Mexico, are reminders of that fact," said de Juniac.     

View full March passenger traffic analysis 

Air Freight Growth Slows to 22-Month Low as Restocking Cycle Ends

 

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www.iata.org
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