June airfreight volumes couldn’t keep up with last year’s growth, according to data from the International Air Transport Association. Falling 3 percent year-over-year from June 2010, cargo volumes haven’t improved since last summer.
To IATA Director General Tony Tyler, the issue is multifaceted. “Compared to May, both passenger and cargo markets contracted by about 1 percent,” he said in a statement. “For passenger traffic, this is a speed bump in a gradual post-recession improvement. But air cargo continues in the doldrums at 6 percent below the post-recession peak.”
The problem, IATA officials said, is that shippers are looking beyond airfreight to transport goods. Although world trade is growing steadily — increasing 7 percent a year — so are the number of modes to ship cargo.
It’s a challenge facing carriers worldwide. In fact, Asia-Pacific airlines — which account for a whopping 40.5 percent of the global airfreight market — experienced a 5.8-percent decline in cargo volumes from June 2010. Still, IATA officials attribute much of this loss to the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake and a slightly weakened Chinese economy.
North American and European carriers also reported losses in June, experiencing year-over-year declines of 3 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. Not all carriers reported losses, however. June airfreight volumes actually rose a respective 3.7 percent, 2.8 percent and 0.3 percent for Middle Eastern, Latin American and African airlines.
Either way, Tyler said, it’s clear that sky-high fuel prices are affecting passenger and cargo traffic. “With an expected profit margin of only 0.7 percent, the ability of airlines to recoup this cost is critical to staying in the black for the year,” he stated. “Slower economic growth makes these challenges all the more difficult.”
Considering these circumstances, it’s not surprising that IATA’s forecast for 2011 is rather bleak. Agency officials project that the aviation industry will only make a $4 billion profit this year, 78-percent less than 2010.