Air Cargo Demand Continues in May

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

Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), rose by 14.7 per cent compared to May 2023 levels (15.5 per cent for international operations). This is the sixth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth. Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), increased by 6.7 per cent compared to May 2023 (10.2 per cent for international operations).

“Air cargo demand moved sharply upwards in May across all regions,” said Willie Walsh, IATA director general. “The sector benefitted from trade growth, booming e-commerce and capacity constraints on maritime shipping. The outlook remains largely positive with purchasing managers showing expectations for future growth. Some dampening, however, could come as the US imposes stricter conditions on e-commerce deliveries from China. Increased costs and transit times for shipments under $800 may deter US consumers and pose significant challenges for growth on the Asia-North America trade lane—the world’s biggest.”

Several factors in the operating environment should be noted:

  • In May the Purchasing Managers Index (PMIs) for global manufacturing output and new export orders indicated expansion (52.6 and 50.4 respectively).
  • Industrial production and global cross-border trade increased month-on-month in April (0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively).
  • Inflation saw a mixed picture in May. In the EU and Japan, inflation rates fell to 2.7 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively, while rising in the US to 3.3 per cent. In contrast, China’s inflation rate remained near zero (0.3 per cent) reflecting weak domestic demand due to high unemployment, slow income growth, and a crisis in the real estate sector, a trend that has persisted since 2023.

May Regional Performance
Asia-Pacific airlines saw 17.8 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. Demand on the Africa-Asia trade lane grew by 40.6 per cent year-on-year, while the Europe-Asia, Within Asia and Middle East-Asia trade lanes rose by 20.4 per cent, 19.2 per cent and 18.6 per cent respectively. Capacity increased by 8.4 per cent year-on-year.

North American carriers saw 8.7 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May — the weakest among all regions. Demand on the Asia-North America trade lane grew by 12.0 per cent year-on-year, while the North America-Europe route saw an increase of 8.9 per cent, marking the largest demand growth for this route since mid-2022. May capacity increased by 2.5 per cent year-on-year.

European carriers saw 17.2 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. Intra-European air cargo rose by 25.6 per cent compared to May 2023, the fifth month in a row of double-digit annual growth. Europe–Middle East routes saw demand increase by 33.8 per cent. May capacity increased 11.9 per cent year-on-year.

Middle Eastern carriers saw 15.3 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. As mentioned above, the Middle East–Europe market performed particularly well with 33.8 per cent annual growth, ahead of Middle East-Asia which grew by 18.6 per cent year-on-year. May capacity increased 2.7 per cent year-on-year.

Latin American carriers saw 12.7 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. Capacity increased 8 per cent year-on-year.

African airlines saw 18.4 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May – the strongest of all regions. Demand on the Africa–Asia market increased by 40.6 per cent compared to May 2023, the strongest performance of all trade lanes. May capacity increased by 21.4 per cent year-on-year.