This marks the eleventh consecutive month of year-on-year decline in freight volumes, the longest period since the global financial crisis in 2008.
Freight capacity measured in available freight tonne kilometres rose by 2.1 per cent year-on-year in September. Capacity growth has now outstripped demand growth for the 17th consecutive month.
Air cargo continues to suffer from the intensifying trade war between the United States and China, and South Korea and Japan. It also suffers from the deterioration in global trade and weakness in some of the key economic drivers.
Global export orders continue to fall. The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) tracking new manufacturing export orders has pointed to falling orders since September 2018. "The US-China trade war continues to take its toll on the air cargo industry," said IATA's Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.
"October's pause on tariff hikes between Washington and Beijing is good news. But trillions of dollars of trade is already affected which helped fuel September's 4.5 per cent year-on-year fall in demand. And we can expect the tough business environment for air cargo to continue," he said in a statement.
Airlines in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and the Middle East suffered sharp declines in year-on-year growth in total air freight volumes in September 2019, while Latin America carriers experienced a more moderate decline. Africa was the only region to record growth in air freight demand compared to September last year.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for air freight contract by 4.9 per cent in September 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. The US-China and South Korea-Japan trade wars along with the slowdown in the Chinese economy have significantly impacted this region.
More recently, the disruption to operations at Hong Kong International Airport -- the largest cargo hub in the world -- added additional pressure. With the region accounting for more than 35 per cent of total freight tonne kilometres, this performance is the major contributor to the weak industry-wide outcome. Air freight capacity increased by 2.7 per cent over the past year.