Air cargo sees strong demand continue

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by Emily Atkins

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for March 2024 global air cargo markets showing continuing strong annual growth in demand.

Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), rose by 10.3% compared to March 2023 levels (11.4% for international operations). This is the fourth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth.

Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), increased by 7.3% compared to March 2023 (10.5% for international operations).

“Air cargo demand grew by 10.3% over the previous March. This contributed to a strong first quarter performance which slightly exceeded even the exceptionally strong 2021 first quarter performance during the COVID crisis. With global cross-border trade and industrial production continuing to show a moderate upward trend, 2024 is shaping up to be a solid year for air cargo,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

Global cross-border trade and industrial production increased by 1.2% and 1.6% respectively in February. In March, the manufacturing output Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) climbed to 51.9, indicating expansion. The new export orders PMI also rose to 49.5, remaining slightly below the 50 threshold that would indicate growth expectations.

Inflation saw a mixed picture in March. In the EU and Japan, inflation rates fell to 2.6% and 2.7% respectively, while rising in the US to 3.5%. In contrast, China experienced a slight deflation of -0.01%. This latest figure marks a return to deflation after February’s brief period of inflation.

Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific airlines saw 14.3% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March. Demand on the Asia-Europe route grew by 2.7 ppt to 17.0% and the within Asia market grew by 6.7 ppt to 11.8%. Capacity increased by 14.3% year-on-year.

North American carriers saw 0.9% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March —the weakest among all regions. Demand on the North America–Europe trade lane grew by 2.9% year-on-year while Asia–North America grew by 4.7% year-on-year. March capacity decreased by -1.9% year-on-year.

European carriers saw 10.0% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March. Intra-European air cargo rose by 24.7% year-on-year. Europe–Middle East routes saw demand grow by 38.3% year-on-year, while Europe–North America expanded by 2.9% year-on-year. March capacity increased 8.0% year-on-year.

Middle Eastern carriers saw 19.9% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March – the strongest of all regions. The Middle East–Europe market was the strongest performing with 38.3% growth, ahead of Middle East-Asia which grew by 19.6% year-on-year. March capacity increased 10.6% year-on-year.

Latin American carriers saw 9.2% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March.  Capacity increased 7.0% year-on-year.

African airlines saw 14.2% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March. Demand on Africa–Asia market increased to 22.9%, however this was a 19.8 ppt decrease compared to February’s performance and the largest contraction across the major route areas. March capacity increased by 17.3% year-on-year.