Air cargo demand rises 18.4 per cent in January

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for January 2024 global air cargo markets indicating a strong start to 2024.

• Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), increased by 18.4 per cent compared to January 2023 levels (19.8 per cent for international operations). This significant upturn marks the highest annual growth in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) since the summer season of 2021.

• Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), was up 14.6 per cent compared to January 2023 (18.2 per cent for international operations). This was largely related to the growth in belly capacity. International belly capacity rose 25.8 per cent year-on-year (YoY) on the strength of passenger markets.

“Air cargo demand was up 18.4 per cent year-on-year in January. This is a strong start to the year. In particular, the booming e-commerce sector is continuing to help air cargo demand to trend above growth in both trade and production since the last quarter of 2023. The counterweight to this good news is uncertainty over how China’s economic slowdown will unfold. This will be on the minds of air cargo executives meeting in Hong Kong next week for the IATA World Cargo Symposium with an agenda focused on digitalization, efficiency and sustainability,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

Air cargo growth outpaced trade and production. Several factors in the operating environment should be noted:

• Global cross-border trade increased by one per cent in December compared to the previous month (-0.2 per cent YoY).

• In January, the manufacturing output Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) improved to 50.3, surpassing the 50 mark for the first time in eight months, indicating expansion. The new export orders PMI also saw an increase to 48.8, but remains below the critical 50 threshold, suggesting a continuing yet decelerating decline in global exports.

• Inflation in major economies continued to ease from its peak in terms of Consumer Price Index (CPI) in January, reaching 3.1 per cent in both the US and in the EU, and 2.1 per cent in Japan. China’s CPI, however, indicated deflation for the fourth consecutive month, raising concerns of an economic slowdown. China’s negative inflation rate of -0.8 per cent was the lowest since the Global Financial Crisis in 2009.

January regional performance
Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 24.6 per cent in January 2024 compared to the same month in 2023. This performance was above the previous month (+18.5 per cent). Carriers in the region benefited from ongoing growth in international CTKs on three major trade lanes: Africa-Asia (+52.5 per cent), Middle East-Asia (+29.5 per cent) and Europe-Asia (+27.5 per cent). Available capacity for the region’s airlines increased by 25.0 per cent compared to January 2023 as more belly capacity came online from the passenger side of the business.

North American carriers had the weakest performance of all regions in January with a 9.3 per cent increase (YoY) in cargo volumes. This was an improvement in performance compared to December (2.0 per cent). Carriers in the region benefitted from growth on the North America-Asia trade lane (+17.1 per cent) and North America-Europe trade lane (+3.5 per cent). Capacity increased by 3.8 per cent compared to January 2023.

European carriers saw their air cargo volumes increase by 16.4 per cent in January compared to the same month in 2023. This was a stronger performance than in December (+8.6 per cent). Carriers in the region benefitted from the strong growth in international CTKs in the within Europe market (+18.4 per cent) and the Europe – Asia route (+27.5 per cent). Gains made from the significant expansion in the Middle East-Europe trade lane (+46.1 per cent) also benefited carriers in the region. Capacity increased 12.5 per cent in January 2024 compared to the same month in 2023.

Middle Eastern carriers had the strongest performance in January 2024, with a 25.9 per cent year-on-year increase in cargo volumes. This was a significant improvement from the previous month’s performance (+18.3 per cent). Carriers in the region benefited from growth in the Middle East–Asia (+29.5 per cent) and Middle East–Europe markets (+46.1 per cent). Capacity increased 17.1 per cent compared to January 2023.

Latin American carriers experienced a 13.4 per cent increase in cargo volumes compared to January 2023, a notable increase compared to the previous month’s gain (+6.4 per cent). Capacity in January was up 6.6 per cent compared to the same month in 2023.

African airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 17.0 per cent in January 2024, much improved compared to December’s performance (-1.2 per cent). Carriers in the region benefitted from strong growth on the Africa-Asia trade lane. Capacity in January was 19.4 per cent above January 2023 levels.