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Mar 3, 2006
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Air Cargo Off 22%

GENEVA (Reuters) -- International air cargo traffic fell 22.1% in February compared with the same month a year ago, but the decline in freight may have found its floor, the airline industry body IATA said on Thursday.

Freight demand is considered a key barometer for the health of global trade, which has weakened considerably in response to the world's economic downturn and credit crisis.'

The February decline was the third consecutive month with cross-border cargo volumes far below the previous-year levels, following a 23.2% year-on-year drop in January and a 22.6% decline in December.

"We may have found a bottom to the freight decline, but the magnitude of the drop means that it will take time to recover," IATA Director-General Giovanni Bisignani said in a statement.

Freight demand in Asia, the region most affected by the decline in shipments, fell 24.7% year-on-year in February, the Geneva-based group said. Japanese exports have almost halved from February 2008, it said.

Air passenger traffic also declined last month, but less sharply than cross-border cargo.

Overall passenger volumes fell 10.1% below February 2008 levels, following a 5.6% year-on-year fall in January, IATA said.

Asia-Pacific carriers saw a 12.8% drop, North American airlines carried 12% fewer passengers and Europe's recorded traffic down 10.1%, matching the global average. Latin American passenger traffic was slightly stronger, with only a 3.8% drop, and in the Middle East it was up 0.4%.

IATA, which represents 230 airlines including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, United Airlines (UAUA, Fortune 500) and Emirates, said earlier this week that airlines would lose $4.7 billion this year as a result of the economic downturn that has kept people and cargo from flying.

Its traffic data excludes domestic flights.
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