Air cargo sees double-digit growth in March

Geneva – Global air cargo markets continue to show strong annual growth, with total demand measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), up by 10.3 per cent compared to March 2023, according to data for March from The International Air Transport Association (IATA).

That increase is the fourth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth, the organization says. Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), increased by 7.3 per cent compared to March 2023 (10.5 per cent for international operations).

“Air cargo demand grew by 10.3 per cent over the previous March,” IATA’s director general Willie Walsh said in a release. “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.”

Several factors of note in the operating environment include:

  • Global cross-border trade and industrial production increased by 1.2 per cent and 1.6 per cent 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 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively, while rising in the US to 3.5 per cent. In contrast, China experienced a slight deflation of -0.01 per cent. This latest figure marks a return to deflation after February’s brief period of inflation.

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

North American carriers saw 0.9 per cent 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 per cent year-on-year while Asia–North America grew by 4.7 per cent year-on-year. March capacity decreased by -1.9 per cent year-on-year.

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

Middle Eastern carriers saw 19.9 per cent 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 per cent growth, ahead of Middle East-Asia which grew by 19.6 per cent year-on-year. March capacity increased 10.6 per cent year-on-year.

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

African airlines saw 14.2 per cent year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March. Demand on Africa–Asia market increased to 22.9 per cent, 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 per cent year-on-year.