Air freight rates on major east-west routes rose faster than expected in October, as the industry entered its traditional peak season.

The Baltic Exchange Airfreight Index (BAI) showed that average spot and contract rates from Hong Kong to North America increased by 18.4% compared with September to $5.80 per kg. This is still 13.9% lower than last year, but the gap has narrowed from a high of 47.7% in May.

Rates from Hong Kong to Europe also rose by 14.5% in October to $4.26 per kg, down 26.3% on last year.

Air freight rates tend to rise at this time of year as the industry enters the peak season, but many analysts had been expecting a muted rise this year due to subdued demand. However, TAC Index said that the recent rate rises reflected a “genuine if modest peak season bounce with gains on rates from all major outbound locations around the world”.

WorldACD said that global air cargo tonnages and rates had stabilized after recovering from China’s National Day Golden Week in early October. However, it said that there are no clear signs yet of any significant fourth-quarter peak season, despite anecdotal reports from some freight forwarders of a slight seasonal tightening of the market.