IATA: Rapid growth faces potential slowdown

Global trade indications show that cargo growth may have peaked – but the outlook remains strong, by Andrew Matters

Cargo has been the good news story of the year, with the strongest first half-year global growth since 2010. But there are also some indications that this growth may have peaked.

The data for the first six months of the year points to an increase in demand (measured in FTKs – freight tonne kilometres) of 10.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2016. And compared with June last year, global FTKs are 11 per cent higher, easily outstripping the five-year average growth rate of around 4 per cent.

Capacity (measured in AFTKs – available freight tonne kilometres) was up 3.6 per cent against last year, which means that demand is running well ahead of capacity – good news for both load factors and yields. Little wonder there were positive thoughts emanating from the freight chiefs surveyed in IATA’s Airline Business Confidence Index.

Some 77 per cent of respondents to the survey, which was carried out in July, reported increased year-on-year profitability against the second quarter of 2016 – the highest proportion of the past seven years. One third reported an increase in yields, and 58 per cent anticipate a further increase in freight volumes over the year ahead.

However, while this growth has been spurred by a stronger global economic and trade backdrop, there are some signs that this could slow down as the year enters the second half. For example, the global inventory to sales ratio has stopped falling, meaning that the need for businesses to restock inventories quickly may be easing.

But with indicators pointing to year-on-year FTK growth in the region of eight per cent in the third quarter – and following on from years of stagnation – the overall picture for air cargo in 2017 remains upbeat.