Traditional airfreight has become more difficult to sell. And that is hitting carriers' profits just as passengers are returning and they are laying on more flights.
Airlines went through a rough patch after the global financial crisis. According to IATA, an industry body, 2009 was the industry’s worst year since the Second World War. A slew of bankruptcies, mergers and restructuring programs subsequently knocked parts of it into shape. Optimism is now growing that the global economy has entered a cyclical upturn. Worldwide passenger traffic grew by 5.2 percent last year. IATA expects it to rise another 31 percent by 2017.
But air cargo grew by a meager 1.4 percent in 2013, trailing significantly behind the 2.6 percent increase in freight capacity. That prompted IATA to call freight markets the “biggest worry” for the airline industry. Although freight traffic has picked up slightly in 2014, IATA warns of “trends which are not in the industry’s favor”.
Foremost among these is that manufacturers are moving supply chains back to the developed world. As goods are produced closer to home there is less need for airlines to fly finished products and components around.