Global air freight volumes are rolling over

Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
  • Global air freight volumes are falling, adding to evidence that the global economy is continuing to slow.
  • In January, the year-ended decline in volumes was the steepest in three years.
  • The global weakness was concentrated in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Global air freight is declining, adding to a lengthening list of indicators that suggest the global economy is continuing to slow.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), demand, as measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), decreased by 1.8% in January compared to the same period a year.

FTKs is simply the weight of freight multiplied by distance transported.

It was the third consecutive month that FTKs declined from a year earlier, and was the steepest in three years.


“Demand for air cargo continues to face significant headwinds,” IATA said in a statement.

“Global economic activity and consumer confidence have weakened. And the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for manufacturing and export orders has indicated falling global export orders since September 2018.”

The Association said there was no evidence that the shifting timing of Lunar New Year holidays in many major Asian nations contributed to the weakness.

“The emerging trend in the data is clear. In seasonally-adjusted terms — where we try to remove the regular data volatility — seven of the past 12 months have recorded a decline,” it said.

“At a regional level the deterioration in growth outcomes is widespread.”

From a year earlier, FTKs in the Asia Pacific, Europe and Middle East slumped by 3.5%, 3.1% and 4.5% respectively, masking growth of 3.3% in North America and 1% in Africa.

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