The world's airports reported an overall year-over-year gain of 4.1 percent in air freight traffic for the month of October, despite sluggish global commerce for most of 2013, according to Airports Council International.
The rise in air freight volumes is consistent with the recent improvements in international trade volumes and overall business confidence, ACI said.
Of all regions, North America posted the strongest gains in air freight volumes for the month of October. Traffic grew by 5.1 percent for the region. Considering that growth in traffic was almost flat for most of 2013, ACI reports the surge in volumes for the month of October points to a considerable improvement.
In Asia, the global air freight hubs of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Incheon had year-over-year increases of 6.1 percent, 10.7 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. The major top ten airports in Asia posted gains in freight traffic. The region, as a whole, grew by 4.5 percent in air freight volumes for the month of October.
European air freight markets posted the strongest gains since the beginning of 2013. While certain major airports continue to experience a decrease in air freight volumes, there was a net gain in volumes, which translated in an increase of 4.2 percent in air freight traffic.
Two of Latin America's largest air freight hubs, Sao Paulo and Mexico City, contracted by 8.2 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. Many airports in the region saw their freight volumes decline in October, and the region's airports had a collective decline of 2.1 percent.
Johannesburg, the highest ranking airport in terms of air freight in Africa, had a drop of 13 percent in freight volumes. Given that the airport handles almost 20 percent of Africa's global freight volume on an annual basis, JNB's decline contributed to the overall continental decline of 8.1 percent.
The Middle East posted moderate gains in air freight traffic at 3.3 percent growth for the month of October. Abu Dhabi, the third ranked airport in terms of freight volume, reported a gain of over 17.9 percent in freight traffic, whereas Dubai, the region's leading airport, grew by 3 percent for the month.
According to the International Air Transport Association, all regions but Africa grew in October 2013 compared to a year ago. The strongest growth was in the Middle East, but Europe also showed healthy improvement. Europe and the Middle East combined have carried three quarters of the cargo increase over the past six months.
IATA reports that although activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector has been increasing for the past three months, expansion is much slower than at the start of the year.
Asia-Pacific carriers’ traffic grew 2 percent, with capacity up 4.1 percent. Asian cargo volumes benefited from a resurgence in trade across the region, fueled by a stronger Chinese economy where manufacturing activity hit a seven-month high.
European airlines’ capacity grew by just 3.6 percent, and Latin American airlines grew by 1.5 percent year-on-year. However, the year-to-date growth rate remains the second-fastest of all regions, supported by a 10-percent increase in regional trade volumes.
African carriers experienced the only decline in October, compared to October of last year. Although trade volumes for the region continue to increase, competition on important trade routes is strong and lack of adequate infrastructure and political stability continue to hinder growth potential, IATA said.
Middle Eastern carriers grew 12.3 percent compared to a year ago. Capacity was well-matched to demand, with an increase of 12.1 percent.