Global air freight traffic continued to gain momentum, rising 12.1% compared to a year ago, as reported in IATA’s August Air Freight Market Analysis.

“World trade volumes grew by 4.2% so far in the first seven months of 2017 … the strongest showing on this basis since 2011,” IATA senior economist David Oxley said. “The recent performance of air freight relative to wider world trade remains consistent with the typical pattern seen at the start of upturns in the global economic cycle. [It] relates in large part to the ability of air freight to allow firms to restock quickly.”

Oxley said the strong start for freight volumes will likely result in robust traffic growth figures for the year as a whole. “We judge that the risks to our current forecast of 7.5% growth in FTKs [freight ton kilometers] for 2017 now lie increasingly on the upside,” Oxley said. As of Aug. 30, total market freight traffic growth stands at 10.5% for the year to-date. The five-year average FTK growth rate is pegged at 4.4%.

“Demand for air cargo [is] … outperforming demand for passenger travel for the fourth consecutive month,” IATA DG and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said. “Rapid growth in cargo demand means that cargo capacity is now growing in response to real cargo demand rather than automatically as carriers responded to passenger demand … freighter fleets are being utilized more intensely.”

Overall freight capacity increased 4.7% in August, less than half of the month’s freight traffic’s growth; the freight load factor for the month came in at 43.3%, up 2.8 percentage points year-over-year (YOY).

All regions showed strong international air freight growth in August:

African carriers are nearing a full year of impressive statistical growth for their air cargo traffic, and in August again led the way with 29.5% YOY growth, more than tripling the 8.8% five year average-pace. Cargo traffic between Africa and Asia continues to surge; in 2017 so far, traffic flown on the route has increased 67% YOY.

Middle Eastern carriers had a 14.2% rise in traffic on an a.9% capacity rise, producing a 43.9% FLF. Strong competition from other regions’ carriers, particularly on the Asia-Europe route, continues to cut into Middle Eastern carriers’ freight traffic.

International air freight traffic for North American carriers increased 13.5% YOY in August, more than five times the average five-year pace. “The US Census Bureau shows that import volumes coming into the US by air grew 12.7% YOY in the first seven months of 2017, compared to a slower 5.8% rise in exports,” Oxley said. “The US dollar still remains strong by historical standards but we expect its decline since the start of the year to start help rebalancing trade flows by boosting exports and deterring imports.”

Mark Nensel