Officials at the International Air Transport Association have released figures for air freight markets in April which showed modest growth of 1.4 per cent compared to April 2012.
This small increase helped to offset the 2.6 per cent decline recorded in March compared to the year-ago period.
And it continues an 18-month trend of basically no growth in the cargo markets.
“We saw a brief rally in cargo markets at the end of 2012.
“But that has clearly stalled. Fortunately, the small improvement in April means that economic conditions have not deteriorated to the point of starting a market contraction. And if we look to emerging markets—particularly Latin America and the Middle East - we do see some encouraging signs of growth,” said Tony Tyler, IATA director general.
Growth in emerging markets was strong enough to counterbalance weaknesses in the major aviation regions, but overall growth remains feeble.
Asia-Pacific carriers saw a 0.4 per cent fall in freight compared to April 2012. Although Chinese economic growth is still robust, overall business confidence softened in April, indicating a sluggish manufacturing sector.
The outlook for Japan, by contrast, is more optimistic. Export growth drove Japanese business confidence to a 13-month high in April, but the impact hasn’t yet affected freight growth.
North American airlines saw air freight volumes fall 0.1 per cent in April compared to the previous year.
Although this is a contraction, it is an improvement on the 6.5 per cent fall in March, suggesting that markets have broadly stabilised.
European carriers saw an increase in air freight demand of just 0.9 per cent.
Regional business confidence levels trail those in both the US and emerging markets.
Nevertheless, European air freight volumes are holding up better than other regions when compared to the previous year.
Middle East airlines saw their freight business expand at a healthy 8.6 per cent compared to April 2012.
While this is a slowdown from the year-to-date growth rate of 11.2 per cent, it was still the second highest of any region and the opening of new routes to developing economies will drive growth for the foreseeable future.
Latin American airlines experienced the highest growth in demand with a 12.2 per cent expansion compared to the year-ago levels.
This is more than three times the year-to-date growth, and is the result of strong domestic demand as well as a sustained growth in exports of perishable goods.
African airlines saw air freight demand grow by 1.4 per cent compared to April 2012, in line with the global result.
During previous months, however, African airlines’ air freight demand has performed more strongly than the global market, reflecting robust expansion in regional trade volumes compared to the world trend.