Worldwide, freight tonne kilometers increased by only 0.8 percent in May 2013, compared to May 2012.
"It is now clear that the positive global upswing in air cargo at the end of 2012 was an illusion," said Tony Taylor, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association. "Air cargo, along with many parts of the world economy, appears to be in suspended animation at the moment."
During the past few years, air cargo has been forced to weather not only a global economic slowdown, but also the rise of alternative shipping methods such as ground and sea transport.
One area that saw the largest drop was load factors, which fell by 44.9 percent over the past year, according to the report. This is because air travel growth is increasing far faster than air cargo growth. Since many freight carriers use passenger aircraft to transport goods, capacity is rising faster than it can be used.
The one bright spot in the world was the Middle East region, which recorded a nearly 10 percent in cargo increase over the past year.
One thing carriers can do to improve their performance in the rest of the world is to adopt proof of condition services like CargoSnapshot. This service allows users to take individual pictures of each piece of cargo loaded onto a plane. In the event of theft or damage, carriers can turn to these photos to offer proof of what occurred during the flight.