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Global air freight market picks up

Despite the lowest expectations of a peak season, global air freight indices are recording rate rises on major east-west trades in October, as the industry entered the traditional peak season period.

The latest figures from the Baltic Exchange Airfreight Index (BAI) show that average rates  from Hong Kong to North America increased by more than 18% compared with September and while year prices are down 14% over the year, the difference is narrowing.

From Hong Kong to Europe, rates in October increased more than 14% on September, down 26.3% year on year and while air freight rates tend to rise at this time of year, any increase depends on the strength of demand.

Another data provider, WorldACD, recorded rises in the last two weeks of October for global tonnages, which reversed the drop triggered by China’s Golden Week holiday break.

Air cargo space from China to North America is in short supply as strong eCommerce demand outstrips the slow return of passenger flights and the essential belly cargo capacity they add, with rates rising in the first three weeks of October.

Trans-Pacific load factors were at 89% in the first half of October, which is close to peak pandemic levels and means that any sudden increase in demand will see space squeezed very quickly.

While overall global tonnages, rates, and capacity increased, the regional picture is more mixed, with notable volume increases recorded on Europe-Asia Pacific (+11%) and modest tonnage and rate increases (+2%) on the big markets ex-Asia Pacific, to North America and Europe.

Outbound routes from Hong Kong gained a further 2.7% week on week, to trim its year-on-year decline to only 19.2%, with rates rising to Europe as well as to North America, TAC said.

Outbound Shanghai was up even more strongly, by 4.1% week on week, to leave its year-on-year fall at 27%, mainly driven by the rising rates to North America, with rates to Europe sliding.

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