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The industry's March performance stands in sharp contrast to the exceptionally strong 12.2 percent rise reported for February. February's performance, however, was positively skewed by the combined impacts of the timing of the Lunar New Year and the labor dispute at U.S. West Coast seaports.
Freight performance over the first quarter of the year indicates year-on-year growth of 5.3 percent. This is in line with general global economic trends and slightly higher than the 4.5 percent growth that was anticipated in IATA's December outlook.
The regional growth picture remains highly mixed. Latin American and European carriers reported market contractions while Middle East carriers showed rapid growth.
"The air cargo industry is on a solid but unspectacular growth trend. And there is little evidence today that would point towards an acceleration as the year goes on," said Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and CEO.
Longer-term, IATA called on governments to work in partnership to remove barriers to trade. "The growth in air cargo markets has shifted down a gear. World trade and air cargo are still growing, but only in line with industrial production. Removing barriers to trade in line with the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) would deliver a much needed boost to the global economy," said Tyler. The World Economic Forum estimates that the WTO TFA could boost the global economy by as much as $1tr.
Regional Analysis in Detail
Asia-Pacific carriers reported FTK growth of 2.0 percent in March compared to March 2014. This appearance of a sharp slowdown from the February rate of 20.5 percent is a reflection of the impact of Lunar New Year and the West Coast port strike. Capacity expanded 3.9 percent.
European carriers declined 2.4 percent in March, compared to a year ago. The European Central Bank has been engaged in quantitative easing in an attempt to improve the economy and to offset weakness which persists as a result of the Russian sanctions. Capacity rose 2.3 percent.
North American airlines reported growth of 0.8 percent year-on-year. Economic indicators for employment, business and consumer confidence are positive, which should point to stronger growth in the coming months. Capacity fell 3.1 percent.
Middle Eastern carriers saw FTKs grow by 10.6 percent, fueled by network and capacity expansion. Trade is also increasing among Middle Eastern economies. Capacity grew 17.1 percent.
Latin American airlines reported a fall of 6.4 percent in year-on-year FTKs. The key economies of Brazil and Argentina continue to struggle, and a general increase in regional trade activity is yet to carry over into stronger airfreight demand. Capacity expanded 3.3 percent.
African airlines experienced a 2.4 percent increase in FTKs. The region has posted solid growth in Q1 2015, indicating that regional trade is holding up well, despite the under-performance of the Nigerian and South African economies. Capacity rose 0.5 percent.
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