The worldwide air freight market saw an impressive but temporary spike in February, as collective cargo volumes jumped 11.7% year-over-year (YOY), up 8.5 points from January, according to IATA’s February Air Freight Market Analysis. Total market air freight capacity was up 7.4% YOY, up 3.3 points from the previous month; the total market freight load factor came in at 46.5%, up 1 point from January.
The leap in volume was largely the result of combined factors affecting both the Asia-Pacific and North American markets: the Lunar New Year, which this year fell in February, plus the ongoing labor conflict hamstringing shipping ports on the US West Coast—which is prompting Japanese auto manufacturers to ship parts across the Pacific by air. Freight volumes for the month were at approximately 11 million metric tons.
“Japanese car manufacturers, including Toyota and Honda, have had to recall millions of vehicles [in the US] due to faulty parts, including air bags, which are now being shipped by air to destinations in the US,” IATA said. “The port congestion problem has also benefitted North American carriers … [but] these benefits are likely to subside once the port congestion is resolved.”
The Asia-Pacific region registered February’s largest total market statistical growth, as FTKs rose 20.8% YOY (contrasted with January, when the region’s growth was 6.9% YOY). Traffic in the Middle East was up a strong 17.6% YOY. North American traffic rose 8.7% YOY during the month (a striking difference compared to January, when North American FTKs fell 1% YOY). African airlines’ air cargo traffic rose 8.3% YOY. European air freight continued to struggle with 1.1% YOY growth during the month. And air freight movement faltered in Latin America, as FTKs dropped 9.6% YOY in February.
“[While] a combination of factors made February the strongest month in a very long time for air freight, nobody expects growth to continue at this pace,” IATA DG and CEO Tony Tyler said.