September 2017: What a difference a year makes...

 October 31, 2017

Exactly one year ago, our monthly message discussing the September 2016 performance, opened with the following words: "We had not seen it for two years, a volume growth of more than 5% year-over-year (YoY), and yet, that was September's gift to the beleaguered air cargo world". We added that industry sources claimed that October 2016 "will be even better". As we know now, they were absolutely right, and not only about October 2016. What a difference a year makes... The industry has moved from dejection about continuing meagre results to an upbeat feel about the business.

September 2017 was the thirteenth consecutive month of a YoY volume growth well above 5%. With a growth of 8.8%, it was the first month in a long time in which growth remained below 10%, understandably so for a couple of reasons: (1) the very strong Sep-2016 performance, (ii) the Sep calendar had less of the traditionally strong cargo days this year than a year ago, and (iii) the hurricane influence on air cargo, particularly in the Atlantic South of the USA and the Caribbean. Yet, with a very high yield increase of 12% YoY in USD-terms (5.4% in EUR-terms), September 2017 was another outstanding month for air cargo carriers: revenues improved YoY by 21.8% in USD, and by 14.7% in EUR, an excellent performance in any business, we would say, even though a 13% fuel price increase YoY may somewhat dampen the enthusiasm about the revenue growth.

The only region maintaining a YoY double digit volume growth in September was Asia Pacific: +12.3% for outgoing and +11.3% for incoming business. The origin North America stayed well below the average growth (+5.6% YoY, +1.2% YoY for the Atlantic South region), while Africa's growth figures were negative, mainly due to a serious drop in volume from Egypt. The interregional markets growing strongest all involved the Middle East & South Asia (MESA): Asia Pacific > MESA +14%, Europe > MESA +13.3%, North America > MESA 13.9% and MESA > North America +20.6%

Through the first three quarters of the year, Asia Pacific (+14.2%) and Europe (+12.6%) remain the best performing areas in volume growth, consolidating their top positions in the world's air cargo business. Asia Pacific can add the distinction that it is also the only area with double digit yield growth YoY for each month in the period Jan-Sep. Where did most of the growing volumes go to? Four destinations account for 30% of the growth in 2017: China East, USA Midwest, Germany and Japan.

The forwarder perspective

Given a growing interest, particularly among larger forwarders, in the data gathered by WorldACD, this is a good moment to look how the world's Top-20 forwarders are doing, 11 of them coming from Europe, 5 from Asia and 4 from North America. In the year until now, the Top-20 did better YoY than the group of all "other forwarders" (+11.2% vs +10.3%), raising their combined worldwide share to almost 43%. Of the Top-20, the Asians and North-American outgrew the market (+13% and + 12% respectively), whilst the Europeans kept pace with the overall market growth (+10.8%).

The North-Americans did very well in the region Asia Pacific (+19.3%) as well as in the much smaller Africa market (+21.3%), but lost ground on their home turf (+8.6% vs. +13.9% for the Europeans, and +13.3% for the Asians). In Europe, the 11 Europeans in the Top-20 fared much better than the non-European members of the Top-20 (+13% vs. +9.3%).  In the Asia Pacific area, both the Asian members of the Top-20 and the group of 'other forwarders' realized an impressive growth of over 15%.