Middle East air cargo still solid despite fall

IATA head says air freight load factors near 2009 crash levels, but the Middle East is still leading the pack.
IATA head says air freight load factors near 2009 crash levels, but the Middle East is still leading the pack.
IATA head says air freight load factors near 2009 crash levels, but the Middle East is still leading the pack.

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Air cargo growth in the Middle East has fallen significantly in the second half of 2015 compared to the first six months of the year, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 260 airlines, or 83% of global air traffic.

Middle Eastern carriers saw demand expand by 8.3%, against a capacity increase of 11.6% in October, leading to an unusual drop in air freight rates. However, the IATA has indicated that growth remains “robust enough to sustain solid demand for air cargo”.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE saw slowdowns in non-oil sectors, the IATA added. This comes against a backdrop of a global malaise in the air freight sector. IATA data shows that air cargo volumes measured by freight tonne kilometres (FTK) rose just 0.5% in October compared to a year ago.

Year-over-year expansion retreated from September’s faster growth rate, and total cargo volumes in October stand 1.1% lower than the peak of the uptrend at the end of 2014.

European carriers have driven recent improvements in air cargo growth, but in October they hit significant headwinds, with growth of just 0.2%. Other regions also underlined the weak October trend. The most significant decline in cargo activity was experienced by North American carriers, with a 2.4% drop in volumes. Latin America was down 8.1% while Africa saw a decrease of 1.1%.

Asia-Pacific came out ahead of Europe with an increase of 0.3%. Growth in the Middle East, remains at the leading edge with an impressive 8.3%, but analysts have warned that this is some 4.3 percentage points down on the average performance for the year to date.

“The outlook for air cargo continues to be very difficult. While there was some optimism from third quarter growth it has all but disappeared as the industry basically flat-lined,” says Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO. “Freight load factors have sunk to the 44% range—a level not seen since 2009. Early signs of improvement in export orders may bode well for trade and air cargo but this is unlikely to prevent air cargo finishing 2015 on a low note.”

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