Middle East airlines recorded a growth of 11 per cent in air cargo traffic in 2014, the strongest globally, according to a report by International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The region saw an 11.3 per cent growth in air freight traffic in December alone, IATA added.
Airlines in the region have also extended their networks and grown capacity by 11 per cent, making the Middle East a hub for freight traffic.
Gulf airlines have been growing their cargo volumes by rapidly expanding route networks and making timely investment in developing cargo facilities.
Recently, Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad reported that it flew 568,648 tonnes of freight and mail in total last year, up 17 per cent from 2013.
Emirates Sky Cargo, the freight division of Dubai-based airline Emirates, also reported robust figures for last year, especially after its move to a dedicated terminal at Dubai World Central.
Overall regional carriers were responsible for 37 per cent of the total increase in global freight capacity in 2014, the report said.
Globally, air cargo demand grew 4.5 per cent last year, up from a growth of 1.3 per cent seen in 2013, IATA said.
The vast majority of the growth in 2014 was in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions, which respectively contributed 46 per cent and 29 per cent of the expansion in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs).
“After several years of stagnation, the air cargo business is growing again,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO.
“This is largely being driven by the uptick in world trade over the second half of 2014.
“Recent concerns over the health of the global economy and a corresponding fall in business confidence have not yet impacted air cargo. But it is a downside risk that will need to be watched carefully as we move through 2015.”
Despite the trend that indicated overall positive growth, challenges for the air cargo industry remain, he said.
“Yields declined for the third straight year in 2014, with no immediate prospect of improvement,” said Tyler.
“Cargo revenues remained basically unchanged at $62 billion, some $5 billion below their 2011 peak. To move forward, the industry is focusing on providing a stronger value proposition to meet evolving customer needs.
“That’s what is driving efforts such as cutting shipping times, ensuring high-quality handling of temperature-sensitive goods, or benchmarking quality to improve customer transparency.”