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Air freight decline slows

Source: Reuters - Mon 12th Oct 2009

European airline freight volumes are shrinking more slowly than for several months, data showed on Friday, fuelling hopes of a broad-based economic recovery.

Cargo shipments - a widely-watched indicator of economic health - fell 11.7 percent year-on-year at European airports in August, continuing an upward trend that began during the summer, airports body ACI Europe said.

In September they fell 6.3 percent across the seven British airports run by BAA, the slowest rate of decline since November 2008, while they eased 9.3 percent at major cargo carrier Lufthansa compared with a January-September fall of 15.2 percent.

Economists have been keeping a close eye on cargo shipments for clues about the wider economic picture, and the figures underpinned cautious expectations of an upturn, a picture also emerging from Friday's economic data.

The major seven economies in the 30-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development area are poised for recovery, with potential expansion on the cards for France and Italy, according to a survey published by the Paris-based agency.

And the International Energy Agency said a more optimistic economic outlook would drive a faster than anticipated recovery in world oil demand in 2010, as it increased its demand growth estimate by 150,000 barrels per day to 1.42 million.

International airlines are expected to lose $11 billion (6 billion pounds) this year on weak passenger and cargo demand, according to industry body IATA.

Air freight is picking up slowly but the upturn remains fragile, the agency said last month.

Lufthansa Cargo, according to IATA the world's second-largest carrier of freight on international routes behind Korean Air, grounded part of its fleet this year in response to a drop in demand, but the division's head told a German newspaper he hoped for an upturn next year. 

"As an optimist I expect we will see a clear recovery both in tonnage as well as in revenue and thus results" Carsten Spohr was quoted as telling the Boersen-Zeitung on Friday.

Colin Matthews, Chief Executive of Ferrovial-owned BAA, said conditions remained challenging in passenger transport but "the overall numbers around the group appear to be improving."

ACI Europe said cargo demand in the region fell 11.7 percent year-on-year in August, compared with 13.4 percent in July and an average 22.4 percent decrease in the preceding six months.

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