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Two newly-published sets of air transport industry indicators confirm that the slump in worldwide demand for air cargo capacity towards the end of last year has continued into 2009. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed that what it called an "alarming collapse" in cargo markets during December 2008 had worsened in January this year, with a 23.2% year-on-year demand drop. That compared with a 22.6% fall in December. January was the eighth consecutive month of contraction for IATA freight traffic.
"Alarm bells are ringing everywhere. Every region's carriers are reporting big drops in cargo... The industry is in a global crisis and we have not yet seen the bottom," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.
European carriers saw output fall by 23% whilst North American carriers recorded a 19.3% drop. However, Asia Pacific carriers, representing 43% of the market, led the cargo decline with a 28.1% year-on-year drop.
The dire position of the Asia Pacific air cargo sector highlighted by IATA is reinforced by a different set of figures just released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA). On its index, that organization said total freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) recorded by its members in January this year were 23.6% down on the comparable month in 2008. The overall international cargo load factor fell by more than seven percentage points to 56.6% as capacity reductions failed to keep pace with falling demand.
Commenting on the January 2009 results, Andrew Herdman, AAPA Director General, said: "The operating environment remains extremely challenging. The collapse in world trade is having a severe impact on air freight demand, forcing airlines to temporarily ground a number of dedicated freighter aircraft."
In summary, there seems little confidence in the global air transport industry that an end to the downturn in air cargo traffic is going to happen any time soon. IATA commented that manufacturers were still shedding inventory and cutting production, developments which were expected to lead to further falls in freight volumes.
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