ACI reports freight volumes pick up in May despite geopolitical pressure

Freight volumes at airports across the globe increased year-on-year (YOY) by 5.1 per cent in May, according to figures released by the Airports Council International (ACI) World.

ACI said volumes picked up speed during the month despite comparing to a particularly favourable May 2017, close to their 5.3 per cent year-to-date (YTD) increase.

The association said the outlook for global air freight is currently mixed, with trade tensions and inflation up in May, but freight demand remaining robust in the near term.

The May increase of 5.1 per cent was up on the 4.5 per cent growth in April and 2.4 per cent in March, but ACI said March and May 2017 figures were particularly high, with almost all regions reaching double-digit growth, leading to relatively slower figures this year.

The domestic segment, particularly through North America’s high figures, drove a significant portion of that growth. It posted 8.6 per cent growth for the period, compared to the 3.6 per cent rise for the international market. On a year-to-date basis, international freight has been growing at a slower speed than domestic freight this year, a change of pace from 2017.

ACI World director general, Angela Gittens (pictured above) said: “The air transport sector has shown remarkable resilience to the tense climate that has descended over international relations and trade.

“Tensions include the ongoing Qatari blockade and the political challenges facing major Western powers including Brexit negotiations in Europe, and the shifting approach to international relations in the United States.

“The link between aviation and global macroeconomic conditions, however, remains strong, so a prolonged period of diplomatic and market instability could dampen the industry’s outlook for the near future.”

North America and Latin America-Caribbean performed particularly well in May, both reaching a growth rate of 8.6 per cent on a YOY basis. YTD they have grown 6.9 per cent and 11.3 per cent, respectively.

Affected by 2017 numbers, Europe’s freight market suffered a relative slowdown during May, posting an increase of 1.3 per cent after growing by 4.6 per cent in April and 0.9 per cent in March. YTD the region has grown four per cent.

As with Europe, Asia-Pacific’s growth in May, though still robust at 4.8 per cent on a YTD basis, has been middling in recent months and in May it was up 4.7 per cent.

The Middle East, where the freight market had long sustained growth despite local geopolitical tensions, fell for the second month this year, posting 0.9 per cent decline in May. The YTD figure is up 0.4 per cent.

The slowdown was mainly due to the UAE, the largest freight market in the region, which fell by 5.4 per cent during the month. Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, despite the blockade, managed to grow by 4.6 per cent on a YOY basis in May. The airport’s YTD figures stood at +8.4 per cent at the end of May.

Africa, though remaining the smallest freight market of the six ACI regions, has been growing at a strong rate in the last year. In May, the region grew 13.5 per cent pushing YTD figures to an uplift of 11.4 per cent. This is partly due to recovering figures in Nigeria and Egypt, which represent a major part of the region’s freight market and grew substantially during the month.

Gittens added that the air transport sector has shown remarkable resilience to the tense climate that looms over international relations and trade.

She said economic and political pendulums continue to move in “opposite directions” and warned the full impact of the erected tariff walls set by major economies such as the US and China is “yet to play out before our eyes”.

“Trade wars could potentially have a recessionary consequence on the global economy thereby jeopardizing advances in air transport demand,” Gittens added.