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March 2017 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis 
March data complete a strong Q1 for annual FTK growth


Growth reaches a multi-year high in March…

Global FTKs grew by 14.0% year-on-year in March – the fastest pace since October 2010. Airlines based in Europe and Asia Pacific accounted for around two-thirds of the annual increase in freight volumes, with the remainder split almost equally between North American and Middle Eastern carriers. (See Chart 1.) The modest positive contribution made by African airlines was the strongest in nearly seven years, but Latin American carriers detracted from annual FTK growth for the thirteenth month in a row. 


…and completes a very strong Q1 2017
The March result was flattered in part by the comparison with a weak patch in Q1 2016. (Recall that March was the low point for seasonally adjusted (SA) volumes last year – see Chart 2.) We estimate that this accounted for around 1.5 percentage points of March’s year-on-year growth rate – a boost that will not be repeated in the April data.


Nonetheless, Q1 was clearly a very strong quarter for annual FTK growth. The shifting timing of Chinese New Year means that it is always difficult to get a clear reading of underlying developments in air freight at the start of each year. Now that we have data for the first three months, the picture is clearer. FTKs have grown by 9.7% in annual terms so far this year to date. In fact, adjusting for the extra day in February 2016 owing to the leap year, we estimate that the true pace of FTK growth was even faster – closer to 11%.


Upward seasonally adjusted trend has slowed
Developments in SA terms are not quite as stellar as the annual growth rate would suggest. Admittedly, having dipped in February, freight volumes bounced back in SA terms in March. But looking across Q1 as a whole, the upward trend has moderated from that seen in H2 2016. Indeed, around two-thirds of March’s strong year-on-year FTK growth rate relates to gains that took place last year.


Highlights of the March 2017 Air Freight Market Analysis

  • Global freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) grew by 14% year-on-year in March – the fastest pace since Oct 2010.
  • The result completed a very strong first quarter for year-on year growth, albeit partly flattered by weakness last year. Freight volumes rose by nearly 11% year-on-year in Q1 allowing for the extra day in February 2016.
  • Seasonally adjusted (SA) traffic bounced back in March, although the upward trend has eased since H2 2016.
  • The freight load factor has continued to recover, and is now back to levels last seen in early 2015. 
    Download the full document here.

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