The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Wednesday announced global passenger traffic results for April 2019 showing that demand (revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) rose by 4.3 per cent compared to April 2018.
April capacity (available seat kilometres or ASKs) increased by 3.6 per cent and load factor climbed 0.6 percentage point to 82.8 per cent which was a record for the month of April, surpassing last year's record of 82.2 per cent.
Regionally, Africa, Europe and Latin America posted record load factors.
"We experienced solid but not exceptional rising demand for air connectivity in April," said IATA's Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. This, partly, is owing to the timing of Easter, but also reflects the slowing global economy.
"Driven by tariffs and trade disputes, global trade is falling, and as a result, we are not seeing traffic growing at the same levels as a year ago. However, airlines are doing a very good job of managing aircraft utilisation, leading to record load factors," said de Juniac.
But data for global air freight markets shows that demand measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) fell 4.7 per cent in April 2019, compared to the same period the year before. This continued the negative trend in year-on-year demand that began in January.
Freight capacity measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTKs), grew by 2.6 per cent year-on-year in April 2019. Capacity growth has now outpaced that of demand for the last 12 months.
Air cargo volumes have been volatile in 2019 due to the timing of Chinese New Year and Easter, but the trend is clearly downwards, with volumes around 3 per cent below the August 2018 peak.
Brexit-related trade uncertainty in Europe and trade tensions between the United States and China have contributed to declining new export orders. In month-on-month terms, export orders have increased only three times in the past 15 months and the global measure has been indicating negative export demand since September.
The continued weakness is likely to lead to further subdued annual FTK growth in coming months.
"April saw a sharp decline in air cargo growth and the trend is clearly negative this year. Cost inputs are rising, trade tensions are affecting confidence, and global trade is weakening," said de Juniac.
"Airlines are adjusting their capacity growth to try and fall into line with the dip in global trade since the end of 2018. It all adds up to a challenging year ahead for the cargo business. The governments should respond by easing trade barriers in order to drive economic activity," he said.