Air cargo demand took a back seat to passenger growth in 2012, according to numbers recently released by the International Air Transport Association.
Last year, passenger demand grew by 5.3 percent when compared to 2011's activity, while cargo declined by 1.5 percent, year over year. The 20-year average for passenger growth is 5 percent.
Last year was the second consecutive year of losses for the cargo industry, following a 0.6-percent decline in 2011.
In December, total air cargo demand fell by 0.3 percent on a 1.9 percent decline in capacity. Cargo capacity for the entire year edged up by 0.2 percent, year over year.
These cargo declines are driven by a slowdown in global commerce and a modal shift among shippers. Trade with emerging economies is fueling growth in ocean transport at the same time that demand for high-value transport by air is declining, IATA officials said.
The only bright spots in the air cargo world came from Middle Eastern and African carriers, who saw 14.7 percent and 7.1 percent increases in demand last year, respectively. Africa's capacity increase surpassed this demand, but even with a large capacity increase in the Middle East, carriers operating there still had a good year.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw the biggest declines in demand last year, turning in a 5.5-percent decline on a 2.4-percent capacity cut. Carries in Europe, Latin America and North America experienced cargo demand declines of 2.9 percent, 1.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.
“The industry suffered a one-two punch. World trade declined sharply. And the goods that were traded shifted towards bulk commodities more suited for sea shipping," IATA head Tony Tyler said in a statement. "The outstanding bright spot was the development of trade between Asia and Africa which supported strong growth for airlines based in the Middle East and Africa." - Jon Ross