2JanJJaThe full year 2015: even including the exceptional first quarter, marginal growth at best

When we started 2015, we looked back at a year with a healthy year-on-year (YoY) volume growth of 6% for air cargo worldwide, coupled with a drop in yield (in USD) of just 2.5%. Only 12 months later – now that the figures for 2015 are in – we cannot but paint a truly different picture.

YoY volume increased by a meagre 2%, which would have been even lower had our industry not had a windfall on the Transpacific in Q1 of 2015. What a difference a year makes: we hardly see any growth in the business, but unit income and unit cost changed considerably. Worldwide, yield - measured in USD - fell by a whopping 15% YoY. However, the impact of that remarkable drop has yet to be established, as the cost of fuel decreased dramatically over the year, to the point where even consumers of fuel begin to worry about the disruptive effect this price fall may have on economies at large.

Worldwide growth dwindled from one quarter to the next: from 4% in Q1 via 2.5% in Q2, it petered out to a mere 1% volume increase in both Q3 and Q4. One bit of consolation, though: the December month saw an uptick of 2.1% in volume YoY, combined with a MoM decrease in USD-yield in line with the regular December pattern.

The 2015 pattern in the various origin regions was varied. The Americas showed negative growth for the year as a whole, whilst Asia Pacific entered this danger territory in the last quarter only. Africa just stayed in the positive figures, whilst the Middle East and South Asia (MESA) showed up-and-down growth across the four quarters. But it was Europe that really bucked the worldwide trend: from a growth of 1.1% in Q1, via growth varying from 3% to 4% in Q2 and Q3, it finished the year strongly with a 6% growth in the last quarter.  

At the country pair level, cargo carried on the 50 largest flows, as a % of the worldwide totals, was slightly less than a year earlier, in spite of the fact that quite a few of these large O&D’s are Transpacific, so they benefited strongly from the windfall mentioned earlier.  However, the large O&D’s made up for their loss of volume share through a marginally better yield performance. The (very small) sub-region Central Asia and the (much larger) sub-region East Africa were the only two origins which actually recorded higher YoY revenues, as measured in USD. Surprisingly, the Caribbean was the only sub-region which increased inbound revenue.

A trend we already noted a while ago, was continued: the top-20 forwarders saw their worldwide market share further decline, from 44.5% to 43%. But Kuehne+Nagel and Nippon Express were the high flyers among the big guys, chalking up serious increases in their shares, directly followed by the likes of DSV, SDV, CEVA and Expeditors.

Judging by the fact that sales via GSA’s grew by 5% in 2015, it seems safe to say that air carriers to some degree seek alternatives to filling their capacity via their own sales organizations.