The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Airline Industry Forecast 2014-2018 shows that international freight volumes are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1% over the next five years. Emerging economies, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, will be the fastest-growing markets.
"Air cargo remains as vital to the global economic system as ever. This year, more than US$6.8 trillion worth of goods, equivalent to 35% of total world trade by value, will be transported around the world by air. So it is welcome to see a forecast for a return to growth for the air cargo sector after several years in the doldrums. An average of more than 4% growth for the next five years would be a marked improvement on the performance of recent years. Since 2011, for example, growth in freight tonnes has averaged just 0.63% per year," said Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO.
The United States, China and the United Arab Emirates will each be adding more than 1 million additional tonnes of freight by 2018 compared to today. The U.A.E. will have replaced Germany as the third largest market.
The fastest growing international routes will be between the Middle East and Asia, at 6.2% per year. Within Middle East (4.6%), North America to South America (3.9%), and Europe to Southern Africa (3.8%), will also grow strongly.
Significant volume imbalances will continue. The imbalance in flows from Asia to North America is estimated to be 1.1 million tonnes in 2018, and from Asia to the Middle East the imbalance will be 0.6 million tonnes.
The Middle East is forecast to be the fastest growing region over the forecast period with a CAGR of 4.7%. The second-fastest growing market, Africa, will have a CAGR of 4.4%. Asia-Pacific and Latin America, both with a CAGR of 3.8%, will be the joint third-fastest growing markets.
By 2018, the ten largest international freight markets will be the United States (10,054,000 tonnes), China (5,639,000), the U.A.E. (4,974,000), Germany (4,763,000), Hong Kong (4,648,000), Republic of Korea (3,487,000), Japan (3,480,000), the United Kingdom (2,808,000), Chinese Taipei (2,350,000) and India (2,223,000).
Iran is expected to be the fastest growing country (of nations with more than 100,000 tonnes of cargo per year) for air freight volumes over the forecasting horizon with a CAGR of 7.0% per annum. However, it is growing from a low base so it will add just 44,000 tonnes of freight by 2018 for a total of 156,000 tonnes.
The second fastest-growing market, India, will experience a CAGR of 6.8% to add 622,000 extra tonnes. Bangladesh (339,000 total freight tonnes), Ethiopia (319,000) and Nigeria (276,000) make up the remainder of the top five.
Another notable growth country will be Qatar. With a CAGR of 5.7% it will be the sixth-fastest growing and it will see 361,000 additional tonnes to take its total freight tonnes to 1,484,000.