Slowing GDP growth in vital economies, a drop in business and consumer confidence, and falling export orders added to problems for carriers.

Full-year results of International Air Transport Association (IATA) global air freight analysis show that 2019 was the worst year in a decade for cargo demand.

Demand—measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs)—fell by 3.3% compared to 2018, while capacity—measured in available freight tonne kilometers (AFTKs)—rose by 2.1%

It was the first year cargo volumes had declined since 2012, and the weakest overall annual performance since air freight markets dropped 9.7% in the wake of the 2009 financial crisis.

With all the restrictions being put in place, the coronavirus will certainly be a drag on economic growth

December 2019 saw cargo demand decrease by 2.7% year-on-year while capacity grew by 2.8%, compounding a year in which air freight’s performance was stifled by weak growth in world trade.

Slowing GDP growth in vital manufacturing economies, a drop in business and consumer confidence, and falling export orders added to the problems for cargo airlines.

IATA said that there are signs of improvement on the horizon, but the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has served to muddy the waters somewhat.

“Trade tensions are at the root of the worst year for air cargo since the end of the Global Financial Crisis in 2009,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“While these are easing, there is little relief in that good news as we are in unknown territory with respect to the eventual impact of the coronavirus on the global economy. 

“With all the restrictions being put in place, it will certainly be a drag on economic growth. And, for sure, 2020 will be another challenging year for the air cargo business.” 

In the regional markets for December, African carriers bucked the trend by being the only region to post an increase in demand. Latin American airlines performed worst in December, suffering a 5.3% decrease.

  • For the full regional performance, click here
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