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Air cargo improves modestly through February

Air cargo continued its modest improvement in demand that began in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the International Air Transport Association’s February data.

Seasonally adjusted cargo volumes are 2.5 percent above the October 2012 low point, but comparisons with February 2012 performance show a 6.2 percent decline. This is due to February 2012 having an extra day because of Leap Year and the closing of Asian factories for the Chinese New Year in February.

After adjusting for these two factors, air cargo was up 2 percent in February compared to last year.

"This is welcome news after two consecutive years of contraction,” Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and CEO, said. “It is even better news that this growth is expected to pick up moderately as the year progresses. But improvements cannot be taken for granted. Events in Cyprus have reminded us that the Eurozone crisis is far from over. Any resulting loss of business confidence could shift the outlook for the worse."

Regional performance was skewed by Chinese New Year and the 2012 Leap Year. Asia-Pacific carriers saw a 14.7 percent fall in freight traffic compared to February 2012. North American and European freight also declined, while Middle Eastern, Latin American and African carriers saw a rise.

Business confidence and industrial production around the world are improving.

"Demand for sea shipments already reflects the recovery in some parts of the world,” Tyler said. “But we are not yet seeing the positive impact of this in air cargo markets. While it remains to be seen if this is a long-term modal shift, it is clear that sea shipping is becoming a stronger competitor to air cargo."

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