Global airfreight volumes in January rose 2.7 percent over the same period a year ago, marking the strongest month for airfreight volumes ever recorded, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline trade group, said today.
At the same time, freight load factors, which measure the yields generated on the tonnage, fell 1.8 percent year-over-year, indicating that available capacity is ahead of demand and that rates remain under pressure. The problem—one of several besetting an industry that last saw sustainable success in the 1990s, before two recessions, a terrorist attack in the U.S., and a secular downshift in transport spend that discouraged use of premium-priced air—is one of overcapacity.
Globally, available freight ton-kilometers—defined as a ton of freight flown one kilometer—rose 7 percent from the same period in 2015, IATA said. The Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for nearly 39 percent of the global market, reported a 5.9-percent increase in capacity and a 1.3-percent bump in demand. Europe, the second-largest region by share, reported a 6.3-percent increase in capacity against a 2.5-percent gain in demand. North America, with slightly more than 20 percent of the market, reported a 6.7-percent rise in capacity against a 2.5-percent increase in demand, IATA said.
Though all regions except peripheral markets in Africa and Latin America posted volume gains, load factors fell across the board, IATA said. Overcapacity puts pressure on prices, which, in turn, depresses shipment yields.
IATA said the January volume data betters the previous all-time record set in February 2015. It also continues a solid traffic growth pattern that emerged at the end of last year. But with yields falling, and with global trade growth to slow in the months ahead, IATA—which has been consistently dour about airfreight's performance and prospects—said in a statement that it is "unlikely that growth will accelerate in the coming months."
Executives at Swiss transport and logistics giant Panalpina, a big airfreight user, said during its fourth-quarter conference call last week that 2015 marked the first year in many that the pace of global trade fell substantially below that of global GDP. The reverse held sway for years, acting as a tailwind for airfreight demand.