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Air cargo growth expected to continue in 2018: IATA


Geneva, Switzerland — Global airfreight in 2018 is expected to see continued gains in both cargo volumes and profits, according to forecasts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The IATA forecasts global industry net profit to rise to $38.4 billion in 2018, an improvement from the $34.5 billion expected net profit in 2017 (revised from a $31.4 billion forecast in June). Highlights of expected 2018 performance include:

  • A slight decline in the operating margin to 8.1% (down from 8.3% in 2017)
  • An improvement in net margin to 4.7% (up from 4.6% in 2017)
  • A rise in overall revenues to $824 billion (+9.4% on 2017 revenues of $754 billion)
  • A rise in passenger numbers to 4.3 billion (+6.0% on the 4.1 billion passengers in 2017)
  • A rise in cargo carried to 62.5 million tonnes (+4.5% on the 59.9 million tonnes in 2017)
  • Slower growth for both passenger (+6.0% in 2018, +7.5% in 2017) and cargo (+4.5% in 2018, +9.3% in 2017) demand
  • Average net profit per departing passenger of $8.90 (up from $8.45 in 2017)

According to the IATA report, the cargo business continues to benefit from a strong cyclical upturn in volumes, with some recovery in yields. Volumes are expected to grow by 4.5% in 2018 (down from the 9.3% growth of 2017). The boost to cargo volumes in 2017 was a result of companies needing to restock inventories quickly to meet unexpectedly strong demand. This led cargo volumes to grow at twice the pace of the expansion in world trade (4.3%). Cargo yields are expected to improve by 4.0% in 2018 (slower than the 5.0% in 2017). While restocking cycles are usually short-lived, the growth of e-commerce is expected to support continued momentum in the cargo business beyond the rate of expansion of world trade in 2018. Cargo revenues will continue to do well in 2018, reaching $59.2 billion (up 8.6% from 2017 revenues of $54.5 billion).

Strong demand, efficiency and reduced interest payments will help airlines improve net profitability in 2018 despite rising costs. 2018 is expected to be the fourth consecutive year of sustainable profits with a return on invested capital (9.4%) exceeding the industry’s average cost of capital (7.4%).

“These are good times for the global air transport industry. Safety performance is solid. We have a clear strategy that is delivering results on environmental performance. More people than ever are traveling. The demand for air cargo is at its strongest level in over a decade. Employment is growing. More routes are being opened. Airlines are achieving sustainable levels of profitability. It’s still, however, a tough business, and we are being challenged on the cost front by rising fuel, labor and infrastructure expenses,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“The industry also faces longer-term challenges. Many of them are in the hands of governments. Aviation is the business of freedom and a catalyst for growth and development. To continue to deliver on our full potential, governments need to raise their game—implementing global standards on security, finding a reasonable level of taxation, delivering smarter regulation and building the cost-efficient infrastructure to accommodate growing demand. The benefits of aviation are compelling—2.7 million direct jobs and critical support for 3.5% of global economic activity. And the industry is ready to partner with governments to reinforce the foundations for global connectivity that are vital to modern life,” said de Juniac.