The global airfreight industry continued its stunning comeback in May from the shambles of early 2009, reporting a 34.3-percent increase in volumes over the same period a year ago, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Tuesday.
At the same time, the freight surge is creating a supply-demand imbalance that could reach unprecedented levels should it continue. IATA said the strong upsurge in cargo traffic in May outstripped a capacity increase of 12.3 percent, pushing load factors—the amount of available capacity utilized—to a record high of 55.7 percent.
The May numbers come on the heels of a 25.2-percent year-over-year gain in April and similar monthly increases since the start of 2010, according to IATA data.
Traffic moved by Asia-Pacific airlines, which move nearly half of the world's air freight, soared by 38.7 percent, largely on the back of a resurgent regional manufacturing sector, IATA said. But the fastest growth rates were recorded by Latin American and African carriers, which reported volume increases of 60.2 percent and 58.2 percent, respectively. Tonnage handled by North American airlines rose 35.3 percent.
Even European airlines, coping with the continent's economic crisis and the residual effects of the Icelandic volcano, reported year-over-year gains of 21.9 percent, IATA said.
Analysts at JPMorgan Chase, in a research note, said the trends auger well for U.S. parcel carriers with operating leverage in their air networks. Freight forwarding companies will also benefit, though in the near term, their prospects may be clouded by higher carrier rates that could offset the growth in traffic, according to the Morgan analysts.
The analysts noted that May load factors for Asia-Pacific airlines stood at 72.6 percent, the second-highest level since the firm began keeping records in February 2004.