After showing relatively strong numbers toward the end of 2012, worldwide air cargo activity is down 1.1 percent for the first three months of 2013, according to recent data by the International Air Transport Association.
Last month, freight tons carried fell 2.3 percent worldwide, year over year, on a 0.3 percent capacity drop.
Net activity declined, when capacity additions were taken into account, in nearly every region of the world except for the Middle East. In that region, cargo activity grew 10.5 percent in March, and it expanded by 12.4 percent in the first three months of the year. March capacity only ticked up 9.1 percent.
While cargo traffic in Africa rose 3.2 percent, a capacity jump of only 10 percent erased whatever gains the market made. As a result, the load factor fell by 25 percent.
Other regions didn't fare nearly as well as the Middle East. North American airlines reported tonnage drops of 5.2 percent in March, which came with a 2.7-percent reduction in capacity. IATA officials attributed the North American decline to poor exports to Europe. European cargo was down 4 percent last month, and capacity ticked up 0.4 percent. Asia-Pacific demand fell 3.3 percent, and cargo demand has fallen 3 percent since January. In March, capacity saw a 2.8-percent decline.
Latin American carriers saw the smallest decrease in demand (0.8 percent), but also experienced a significant, 2.6-percent increase in capacity.
Even with these results, IATA head Tony Tyler sees a revival in cargo tonnage around the corner.
"The March decline in air cargo is most likely a temporary stall. The fundamentals for a sustained improvement in air cargo volumes are in place," Tyler said in a statement. "Business confidence continues to signal forthcoming expansion, and the solid increase in new export orders seen in 2013 should boost air freight in the coming months." - Jon Ross