Dubai: Demand for air freight globally declined in 2019 for the first time since 2012 amid the trade war between the US and China that hurt the overall trade environment.

According to the latest data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata), volumes by 3.3 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018, also marking the weakest performance in the cargo market since the global financial crisis in 2019 when air freight markets contracted by 9.7 per cent.

In December 2019 alone, cargo volumes fell by 2.7 per cent year-on-year even as capacity rose by 2.8 per cent.

“Trade tensions are at the root of the worst year for air cargo since the end of the global financial crisis in 2009,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and chief executive officer.

“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. With all the restrictions being put in place, it will certainly drag on economic growth, and for sure, 2020 will be another challenging year for the air cargo business.”

In its report on Wednesday, Iata said that growth in global trade in 2019 was just at 0.9 per cent. Softer business and consumer confidence also contributed to challenges in the air freight segment.

Iata pointed, however that there are signs that confidence and orders could pick up in 2020, though the coronavirus and the restrictions it brings present uncertainty.