Air cargo demand maintains double-digit growth in February

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

• Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), rose by 11.9 per cent compared to February 2023 levels (12.4 per cent for international operations). This is the third consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year demand growth.

• Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), increased by 13.4 per cent compared to February 2023 (16.0 per cent for international operations). This was largely related to the increase in international belly capacity accompanying growth in passenger markets (29.5 per cent year-on-year increase), which far exceeded international capacity on freighters (3.2 per cent year-on-year increase).

“February’s demand growth of 11.9 per cent far outpaced the 0.9 per cent expansion in cross-border trade. This strong start for 2024 could see demand surpass the exceptionally high levels of early 2022. It also shows air cargo’s strong resilience in the face of continuing political and economic uncertainties,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Several factors in the operating environment should be noted:

• Global cross-border trade increased by 0.9 per cent in January.

• In February, the manufacturing output Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) climbed to 51.2, indicating expansion. The new export orders PMI also rose to 49.4, remaining slightly below the 50 threshold that would indicate growth.

• February year-on-year inflation dropped to 2.8 per cent in the EU while rising to 2.8 per cent and 3.2 per cent in Japan and the US respectively. After four months of deflation, China reported a 0.7 per cent increase in inflation year-on-year—a positive development amid concerns over China’s economic slowdown.

February Regional Performance
Asia-Pacific airlines saw 11.9 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February. This was a significant decrease compared to January’s 24.3 per cent year-on-year growth, likely related to slowing activity after the Lunar New Year celebrations. Capacity increased by 23.1 per cent year-on-year as belly capacity came online with recovery in the passenger business.

North American carriers saw 4.2 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February—the weakest among all regions. Demand on the North America–Europe trade lane grew by 5.2 per cent year-on-year while Asia–North America grew by 3.9 per cent year-on-year. February capacity increased by 1.9 per cent year-on-year.

European carriers saw 14.6 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February. Intra-European air cargo rose by 24.5 per cent year-on-year—the strongest performance in almost three years. Europe – Middle East routes saw demand grow by 39.3 per cent year-on-year, while Europe – North America expanded by 5.2 per cent year-on-year. February capacity increased 13.2 per cent year-on-year.

Middle Eastern carriers saw 20.9 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February. The Middle East–Europe market was the strongest performing with +39.3 per cent growth, far ahead of Middle East-Asia which grew by 21.9 per cent year-on-year. February capacity increased 16.2% year-on-year.

Latin American carriers saw 13.7 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February. Capacity increased 8.9 per cent year-on-year.

African airlines saw 22.0 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February—the strongest among all regions. The intra-Africa trade lane showed 42.3 per cent year-on-year growth. February capacity increased by 28.2 per cent year-on-year.