Last year brought the steepest decline in demand for air freight since 2009, newly released IATA data shows.

Freight tonne-kilometres fell 3.3%.

“This was the first year of declining freight volumes since 2012, and the weakest performance since the global financial crisis in 2009 (when air freight markets contracted by 9.7%),” IATA notes.

The sector has been hit by falling global trade volumes – they were down 0.9% in 2019 – as well as slowing growth in manufacturing-intensive economies, softer business and consumer confidence, and weaker export orders.

While demand fell, capacity as measured by available freight-tonne kilometres increased by 2.1%.

“Trade tensions are at the root of the worst year for air cargo since the end of the global financial crisis in 2009,” states IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac. “While these are easing, there is little relief in that good news as we are in unknown territory with respect to the eventual impact of the coronavirus on the global economy.”

He warns that 2020 will be “another challenging year for the air cargo business”.

In December 2019, air freight cargo volumes fell 2.7%, as capacity was lifted 2.8%.

IATA’s data shows that all regions of the world bar Africa posted declines in freight tonne-kilometres for the month. Latin America saw the steepest drop, of 5.3%, followed by Asia Pacific (3.5%) and the Middle East and North America (both 3.4%).

Capacity was increased 10% in Africa, 4.9% in Europe, 2.8% in Asia-Pacific and 2.1% in North America.