April 2016 - slight growth, but no air cargo spring yet...

 After a very modest first quarter, the month of April at first sight seemed to give cause for a little optimism. A worldwide volume growth year-over-year (YoY) of 2.5% is a figure we had not seen for quite a while. But a closer look tells us how we should interpret it.  This year, April counted five Fridays & Saturdays, traditionally good air cargo days, whilst last year it had only four. On top of that, the month did not suffer from a negative "Easter-effect", as it had done last year. Our best estimate is that these two differences in the April-pattern may be accountable for most of the YoY volume growth....

Otherwise, April showed remarkable similarities to trends noted in the first quarter. Africa and Europe remained the origin areas with strong weight growth YoY, this month by 6.9% resp. 6.3%. The Americas continued to drop in volume: some consolation may be found in the fact that USD-yields from these origins hold up better than those in other parts of the world. North America was the only area showing a USD-yield growth month-over-month (MoM), albeit by 0.1% only, whilst central & South America have the best YoY yield performance for the year so far.

MoM yield worldwide, measured in USD, dropped by 0.5%. Interestingly, while volumes ex China increased by considerably more than volumes from most other countries in Asia Pacific, YoY yields from China were suffering again. Hong Kong and Shenzhen had negative YoY volume growth in April. What we found most telling, however, is the continuing strong yield deterioration from Hong Kong, to Europe and North America in particular.

The transport of perishables and pharmaceutical products keeps propping up the air cargo performance: the 2,52% YoY growth in April was the outcome of 1.4% growth in general cargo, and 6% in non-general cargo: perishables were up by 4.8% and pharmaceuticals by 12.3%. North America was the top grower in perishables (+14%), in which South America, a traditional powerhouse in this category, has been losing market share in the last few months. The Middle East & South Asia (MESA) continued to eat into the lead of the pharmaceutical producer par excellence, i.e. Europe (16.6% vs. 7.3% growth).

This month, we also had a look at changing patterns in volumes carried over various distances. We distinguished between short, medium and long haul by looking at shipments carried over less than 4000 kilometers, between 4 and 8000 kilometers, and over 8000 kilometers. We also looked at changes in transport to and from the airlines' home countries.

Carriers from MESA, Asia Pacific and Africa were the ones growing as a group in Q1-2016 compared to the same period in 2014. MESA carriers on average gained in all three distance segments, least in short haul and most in long haul, for an overall volume growth of 14%. The same was true for carriers from Asia Pacific, but for a more modest overall growth of 4%. All three carrier groups grew stronger in markets between third countries than in markets to/from their home countries. MESA and AsPac carriers seem to rely more on these third country markets (resp. 68% and 40% of their total volumes) than African carriers (26%).

The European and American carriers lost some ground through negative overall growth, but in different ways. Europeans gained a little in markets between third country, but lost in markets to/from their home bases. For the Americans, it was the other way around. On average, Europeans did better in short haul markets but lost considerably in medium haul; American carriers did the opposite.