Global air freight markets have benefited from a recent upturn in world trade, leading to the sector positing its best results for several years during March 2017.
Data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has demonstrated a 14 per cent expansion in freight tonne kilometers shipped during the month, when compared to March 2016. This marked the fastest pace of growth recorded since October 2010.
Meanwhile, freight capacity - as measured in available freight tonne kilometers - grew by 4.2 per cent year on year in March 2017, meaning that freight demand for the first quarter of the year increased by nearly 11 per cent, with capacity up by 3.7 per cent, even when adjusting for the impact of the leap year in 2016.
An uptick in world trade and a six-year high in new export orders were cited as key drivers of this growth, as well as an increase in the shipment of silicon materials typically used in high-value consumer electronics shipped by air.
With the exception of Latin America, all regions reported year-on-year increases in demand in March 2017, with airlines in Europe and Asia-Pacific posting the strongest growth. Indeed, these regions accounted for two-thirds of the industry-wide increase in demand.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and chief executive officer, said: "March capped a robust first quarter with the strongest year-on-year air freight growth in six-and-a-half years.
"Optimism is returning to the industry as the business stabilizes after many years in the doldrums. There is, however, still much lost ground to recover while facing the dual headwinds of rising fuel and labor costs. "
He noted that the implementation of modern customer-centric initiatives to streamline processes and reduce costs will remain crucial if the industry is to capitalize on the strong momentum seen during Q1.