Air freight decline continues as international market weakens

Passenger traffic remained resilient with modest growth recorded

Montreal, 25 June 2019 – Airports Council International (ACI) World reports that air transportation demand continued to show signs of a slowdown in April.

The global air freight market – which almost returned a positive growth result in March – fell again in April with a decline of -3.6%. The year-to-date result for the industry now stands at -2.6%.

On the other hand, global passenger figures remained positive in April, growing by +2.9% on a year-over-year basis. Year-to-date growth now stands at +3.5%.

“With trade conflicts between the United States and its major partners remaining unresolved, and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East flaring up again, the indications are that 2019 could be a difficult year for the air freight market,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “The global backdrop remains weak for both emerging and advanced economies and it remains uncertain whether trade tensions can be resolved and whether key macroeconomic indicators such as consumption and direct investment will regain momentum before the end of the year.

ACI collects and analyses data from a significant sample of airports that provide regular reports on month-by-month passenger and freight statistics; this forms part of the world’s most comprehensive source for airport data.

Passenger traffic:

Domestic passenger traffic posted a +0.6% year-over-year growth rate in April, moderating the total global passenger traffic result of 2.9%, compared to the international passenger traffic growth rate of 5.6%. Year-to-date results of domestic passenger traffic growth stood at +2.5%, close to half of the international market’s growth rate of +4.9%.

Of the major markets, Europe gained the most during the month, with a +4.8% increase in total passenger volume. This increase was driven by the region’s international segment, which gained +6.7% against a decline of -0.9% for its domestic counterpart. The region stood at +4.6% on a year-to-date basis.

North America also performed comparatively strongly given the global backdrop of uncertainty, gaining +3.5% in April, and standing at +3.9% on a year-to-date basis. The region’s international market gained +7% during the month for a gain of +5.6% for the first four months of the year.

While the Asia-Pacific year-to-date growth result is positive at +1.8%, total passenger volume fell -1% in April. The region’s domestic segment drove much of this decline, losing -3.9% against April 2018. Given the usual strength of the region’s air transport market, this represents a major shift. The slowdown has been particularly pronounced since the start of the year and has affected most major markets in the region. China’s domestic market has remained relatively resilient to this trend until now. The country’s economy has slowed down and indications are that this regional trend may continue throughout the year.

Africa, benefiting from several tailwinds, such as the recovery of tourism in North Africa, rising oil prices and the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market, performed well in April, bringing its year-to-date growth rate to +7.4%. The region, once subject to significant volatility, has grown consistently above 6% in the last 7 months. Latin America-Caribbean followed a similar trend, growing by +5.4% since the start of the year.

The Middle East trailed behind, with a gain of +1.2% for the period. This was still an improvement over March figures, however, when the region had been the only passenger market to post figures in the negative (-0.3%).

Freight volumes:

After temporarily recovering some ground in March by slowing its decline, international freight once again posted a significant loss in April, losing -6.6% on a year-over-year basis. The year-to-date figure stands at -4.4%, more than one percentage point below its result for the first quarter of 2019. Continuing the general trend for the last months, domestic freight – mostly driven by activity in North America – remained positive, at +3.8% for April and at +1.5% on a year-to-date basis.

Of the major regional markets, only North America posted growth in April, gaining +1.4% and standing at +0.7% on a year-to-date basis. The region’s international freight was still down for 2019, however, at -4.2% for the four first months of the year.

Europe`s freight volume fell by -5.5% during the month, reaching -3.1% year-to-date. Asia-Pacific had a worse result, losing -7% against April 2018 and falling to -5.7% for the first four months of 2019. The region was the only one to also post negative figures for domestic freight, at -3.1% in April.

Latin America-Caribbean`s freight volume fell -2.1% in April, bringing its year-to-date figure to -0.7%. The Middle East also declined, down -4.3% against April 2018. It fell -2.3% for the first four months of the year.

Freight volume in Africa, which has been the most consistent source of freight growth in 2019, grew +6.8% during the month. Though its year-to-date figure of +3.6% remains moderate, it still stands more than 6 percentage points above the global industry’s year-to-date growth rate of +2.6%.

Notes for editors

  1. Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports, was founded in 1991 with the objective of fostering cooperation among its member airports and other partners in world aviation, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization. In representing the best interests of airports during key phases of policy development, ACI makes a significant contribution toward ensuring a global air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2019, ACI serves 646 members, operating 1,960 airports in 176 countries.
  2. PaxFlash and FreightFlash statistics are based on a significant sample of airports that provide regular monthly reports to ACI. They represent approximately 60% of total passenger traffic and 70% of total freight traffic worldwide. Commentary, tables and charts are based on preliminary data submitted by participating airports and are therefore subject to change.

Charts and tables

Traffic table definitions:

PASSENGER TRAFFIC: departing + arriving passengers
INTERNATIONAL: traffic performed between the designated airport and an airport in another country/territory
DOMESTIC: traffic performed between two airports located in the same country/territory
TOTAL: international + domestic passengers + direct transit passengers counted once (when breakdown is available)
Year-over-year percentage changes (% YOY) are calculated from a representative sample.

YOY        Year-over-year same month comparison
YTD         Year to date, starting Jan 2019, compared to same period in previous year
YE           Year end, based on a rolling 12-month period, compared to the same prior 12-month period

Traffic table definitions:

FREIGHT TRAFFIC: loaded and unloaded freight; data in metric tonnes
INTERNATIONAL: traffic performed between the designated airport and an airport in another country/territory
DOMESTIC: traffic performed between two airports located in the same country/territory
TOTAL: international + domestic freight (when breakdown is available)
Note: No domestic freight traffic is reported by airports in the Middle East and Africa regions.
Year-over-year percentage changes (% YOY) are calculated from a representative sample. 

YOY        Year-over-year same month comparison
YTD         Year to date, starting Jan 2019, compared to same period in previous year
YE           Year end, based on a rolling 12-month period, compared to same prior 12-month period

Media contacts

Bojana Jeremic
Manager, External Relations and Special Events
ACI World
Telephone: +1 514 373 1254
Email: mediarelations@aci.aero

Sabrina Guerrieri
Manager, Communications
ACI World
Telephone: +1 514 373 1200
Email: mediarelations@aci.aero