Large widebody freighters, bolstered by solid global demand, are steadily boosting their daily utilization, continuing to reverse a trend that most recently bottomed out in the second half of 2016, the latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) data show.
Utilization at the end of March--the most recent figures available--was about 10.3 hours per day, up from just more than 10 hours per day last summer. While the figure is below the recent peak of more than 10.5 hours per day in late 2015, it is solidly above a five-year low-point of about 9.7 hours per day in mid-2013.
"Global economic conditions have improved since mid-2016, including on the consumer side,” IATA notes. "The trade backdrop has strengthened too, particularly in so-called emerging economies.”
Industry-wide cargo demand, measured in freight-ton kilometer growth, was up 10.6% in the first three months of the year. More than two-thirds of the growth came from Asian and European carriers.
On the capacity front, IATA says 712 tons of capacity were added to the freighter fleet in the first half of 2017, down 22% from the same time period last year. Passenger widebody belly capacity was up more than 4,500 tons, down 5%. The slower capacity additions have helped the global freight load factor hit 45%, a two-year high. Yields are also headed in the right direction, having risen 4.5% since mid-2016.
The increasing demand and consistently low fuel prices mean that older freighters are working more, which is benefitting aftermarket suppliers. It’s also generating more demand for converted freighters, notably Boeing 767s.