Air freight demand measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) among Middle Eastern airlines rose 7.7 per cent in April, compared with the same period in 2015.
While this growth outstripped global demand by nearly 4 percentage points and is the fastest across regions, the growth rate for the Middle East is about half that recorded in April 2015, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The Canada-based association said the weaker demand growth for the Middle East reflects both a slowdown in network expansion by the main carriers over the past six months and weak trading conditions.
While the regions airlines may have limited their freight network expansion in April, their collective capacity still grew by 11 per cent.
Both global and regional demand air freight growth lag behind passenger growth rates in April, reflecting softness in global trade flow.
The first quarter of 2016 saw the first annual decline in trade volumes since the global financial crisis in 2009, and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) predicts only sluggish growth for the remainder of 2016, IATA said in a statement.
While the April uptick in demand growth for air cargo is encouraging, the overall economic environment is not. The decline in global trade does not bode well for air cargo markets in the months ahead, said IATA CEO Tony Tyler.