Air freight volume drops again in November, but at slower pace

cargo being loaded on an aircraft

Global airfreight volumes were smaller in November than a year ago, but the latest industry figures show the market is contracting at a slower pace than in most of 2019.

Freight demand declined 1.1% in November, marking the 13th consecutive monthly year-over-year decrease, but November still registered as the sector’s best performance in eight months, when freight-ton kilometers dipped by only 0.1%, the International Air Transport Association said Wednesday.

A recent analysis by market research firm WorldACD found that worldwide chargeable weight flown by air was down 2.5% in November, after falling 6.9% year-over-year in August, 5.3% in September and 4.7% in October.

IATA said the results reflect the growing importance of large e-commerce events like Black Friday.

IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac described November’s results as “a big disappointment considering that the fourth quarter is usually air cargo’s peak season.” He also said signs of diminishing U.S.-China trade tensions are positive but that “trading conditions at present remain very challenging.”

Air freight capacity increased 2.9% in November, which, combined with the decline in volume, resulted in a 2% drop in freight load factor, according to IATA. The global load factor was 49.6% for the month. WorldACD, on the other hand, said load factors have been improving since August.

North America, Latin America, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions saw volume declines ranging from 1.1% (North America) to 3.7% (Asia Pacific). Europe’s air freight volume increased 2.6% from November 2018, and Africa’s was up a strong 19.8%. Africa, however, only represents 1.6% of global air freight market share.

Singapore’s Changi Airport reported that air freight throughput declined 6.1% in November, year-over-year, to 178,000 tons. Year-to-date volume has contracted 6.8% to 1.84 million tons, in line with declines for the entire Asia Pacific region.

World ACD data showed export strength from China and Hong Kong in October and November, with volume up 5.1% compared with the same period in 2018.

The European market’s performance was attributed to better-than-expected economic activity in the third quarter in some of the region’s economies.

Among Asia Pacific carriers, freight volume was down 3.7% in November. Freight capacity increased 1.8%, and load factor declined 3.1%, according to IATA statistics.