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Global Air Freight Demand Continues Descent, Weighed Down by Trade Tensions

Global air freight demand fell 4.8 percent in June compared to the same period in 2018, marking the eighth consecutive month of year-on-year decline in cargo volume, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported.

Signs of a modest recovery in recent months were apparently premature, IATA said, with the June contraction broad-based across all regions with the exception of Africa.

“Global trade continues to suffer as trade tensions, particularly between the U.S. and China, deepen,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said. “As a result, air cargo markets continue to contract. Nobody wins a trade war. Borders that are open to trade spread sustained prosperity. That’s what our political leaders must focus on.”

Airlines in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East again suffered the sharpest declines in year-on-year growth in air freight volume in the month. Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for air freight decrease 5.4 percent in June year to year.

“Although an important factor, the U.S.-China trade war is not solely responsible for the fall,” IATA said in its monthly report. The amount of air freight within Asia has decreased more than 10 percent over the past year, while air freight capacity increased 1.8 percent over the same period, according to IATA.

North American airlines’ freight demand dropped 4.6 percent in June from the year-ago period, as capacity rose 1.9 percent.

“U.S.-China trade tensions are weighing on the performance,” with freight volume to Asia down 5 percent, IATA said, while cargo on routes to and from Europe, South America and Middle East were also lower.

European airlines posted a 3.6 percent decline in freight demand for the 12 months, as comparatively strong cargo volumes within Europe helped to minimize the impact of weaker German exports.

Freight volume for Middle Eastern airlines decreased 7 percent in the period, with seasonally adjusted demand continuing a decline that began in late 2018.

Latin American airlines experienced a 1 percent drop-off in freight demand June compared to the same period last year and capacity increased 4.6 percent. IATA attributed much of the decline in traffic to weakness in the “within-South America market,” especially Brazil and Argentina.

African carriers were the only ones to report growth in June, with an increase of 3.8 percent from a year earlier, while capacity grew 16.6 percent. This made Africa the strongest performer for the fourth consecutive month. Route analysis showed that the Africa-Asia performance was up 12 percent year-on-year.