Airlines in the Middle East saw their share of global air cargo demand drop for the first time in 18 years in 2017.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures revealed that regional carriers’ freight volumes increased 6.3% year-on-year in December and capacity increased 4.7%.
This contributed to an annual increase in demand of 8.1% in 2017 – the third fastest growth rate of all the regions. Capacity increased 2.6%.
IATA said in a statement: "Having not seen the strong upward demand of other regions in the first half of 2017, Middle Eastern carries’ share of global demand dropped for the first time in 18 years."
Globally, IATA said air freight demand, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) grew by 9%, more than double the 3.6% annual growth recorded in 2016.
Freight capacity rose by 3% in 2017, the slowest annual capacity growth seen since 2012. Demand growth outpaced capacity growth by a factor of three.
IATA said full-year 2017 demand for air freight grew at twice the pace of the expansion in world trade (4.3%).
"Air cargo had its strongest performance since the rebound from the global financial crisis in 2010... We saw improvements in load factors, yields and revenues," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, adding that the outlook for air freight in 2018 was optimistic.