Middle East carriers see airfreight demand falling to 8-year low

Middle Eastern carriers saw airfreight demand slump to 1.8 per cent year-on-year in August 2016 – the slowest pace since July 2009. Capacity increased by 6.9 per cent, The International Air Transport Association (Iata) said.

The strong upward trend seen in Middle Eastern traffic over the past year or so has halted. In seasonally-adjusted terms, volumes in July 2016 were slightly below those seen in January 2016.

The weakening performance is partly attributable to slower growth between the Middle East and Asia. This suggests that Middle Eastern carriers are facing stiff competition from European airlines on the Europe-Asia route.

Globally, global airfreight markets in August 2016 showing that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), rose 3.9 per cent year-on-year. Freight capacity measured in available freight tonne kilometers (AFTKs) increased by 4.1 per cent over the same period. Load factors remained historically low, keeping yields under pressure.

Industry conditions have improved since the particularly soft patch at the start of the year. Carriers in all regions except Latin America reported an increase in year-on-year demand in August. However, regional results varied considerably. For the third time in four months airlines based in Europe posted the highest collective annual growth of all regions, while airlines in the Middle East experienced their slowest growth in more than seven years.

“August numbers showed improvements in cargo demand. While this is good news, the underlying market conditions make it difficult to have long-term optimism. World trade volumes fell by 1.1 per cent in July with no improvement on the horizon. And the current global political rhetoric in much of the world is more focused on protectionism than trade promotion. Economies need to grow out of the current economic doldrums. Governments should be focused on promoting trade, not raising protectionist barriers,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s Director General and CEO.

Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific airlines reported a 2.8 per cent increase in demand for air cargo in August compared to last year. Capacity in the region expanded 1.2 per cent. International traffic within the region has been the strongest of the ‘big-four’ markets (Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and Middle East) so far this year, with traffic up by 6.5 per cent year-on-year in July 2016.

North American carriers saw freight volumes expand 5.5 per cent in August 2016 year-on-year, and capacity increase by 3.7 per cent. International freight volumes grew by 4.6 per cent in August – their fastest pace since the US seaports disruption boosted demand earlier in 2015. However, seasonally adjusted activity has barely altered from 2008 levels. The strength of the US dollar continues to keep the US export market under pressure.

European airlines posted the largest increase in freight demand of all regions in August 2016 – 6.6 per cent year-on-year. Capacity increased 4.7 per cent. The positive European performance corresponds with an increase in reported new export orders in Germany over the last few months. European freight demand has now broken out of the corridor that it occupied between mid-2010 and the start of the year.

Latin American airlines saw demand contract in annual terms for the sixth consecutive month. FTKs in August 2016 fell by 3.3 per cent compared to the same period last year and capacity decreased by 0.2 per cent. The region continues to be blighted by weak economic and political conditions, particularly in the region’s largest economy, Brazil.

African carriers saw demand rebound sharply in August to 3.7 per cent – the fastest growth rate in 12 months. Despite this, freight capacity continues to outstrip demand, due to rapid long-haul expansion. Capacity surged in August year-on-year by 29.2 per cent. The combination of rising capacity and modest growth has significantly affected the load factor of African airlines. In August 2016 it was almost six percentage points lower than a year ago and is around half the industry average.