Air cargo demand slides again but beats pre-pandemic levels

Photo: Jaromir Chalabala/ Shutterstock

Air cargo demand slipped again in February but exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in eight months.

The latest statistics from IATA show that demand in February fell 7.5% year on year in cargo tonne km (CTKs).

However, CTKs for the month were up 2.9% compared with February 2019 levels. The last time demand beat pre-pandemic levels was June of last year.

Also, the decline was lower than the 14.9% year-on-year decline recorded in January and the 15.3% fall in December.

Cargo load factors for the month were down 7.9 percentage points compared with last year at 45.6% as capacity increased by 8.6%.

The increase in capacity reflects the addition of belly capacity as the passenger side of the business continues to recover.

“International belly capacity grew by 57% in February year-over-year, reaching 75.1% of the 2019 (pre-pandemic) capacity,” IATA said.

IATA director general Willie Walsh said: “The story of air cargo in February is one of slowing declines. Year-on-year demand fell by 7.5%. That’s half the rate of decline experienced in January.

“This shifting of gears was sufficient to boost the overall industry into positive territory (+2.9%) compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“An optimistic eye could see the start of an improvement trend that leads to market stabilisation and a return to more normal demand patterns after dramatic ups and downs in recent years.” 

Looking at market indicators, IATA said that the global new export orders component of the manufacturing PMI continued to increase in February and China’s PMI level indicated that demand for manufactured goods from the country is growing.

Meanwhile, global goods trade decreased by 1.5% in January, which was a slower rate of decline than the previous month of 3.3%.

Looking at regional performance, Asia Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes decrease by 6% year on year in February 2023 compared to the same month in 2022.

“This was a significant improvement in performance compared to January (-19.0%),” IATA said. “Airlines in the region benefitted from China’s reopening, which saw restrictions lifted and economic activities resumed.”

Carriers based in North America saw their cargo volumes decline by 3.2% in February, described as a “solid improvement” in performance compared to January.

“Notably, the region saw a significant increase in international demand in February which boosted its market share in international cargo traffic to beyond pre-pandemic levels,” IATA said.

European carriers continued to face tough conditions as demand fell by 15.3%, although this is an improvement on the 20.4% fall in January.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced an 8.1% year-on-year decrease in cargo volumes in February, while Latin American airlines suffered a 2.7% drop in demand.

African carriers reported a 3.4% fall but this was on improvement compared with January.

“Notably, the Africa to Asia route area experienced significant cargo demand growth in February,” IATA said.

IATA: January demand remains muted as economic constraints continue

Share this story

Related Topics

Latest airlines news

Virgin Atlantic Cargo appoints Diesel as MD

Virgin Atlantic Cargo has appointed Nick Diesel as its new managing director, effective August 4. Diesel succeeds Phil Wardlaw, who…

Read More

Share this story

American Airlines continues third-party booking portal rollout

American Airlines Cargo has continued the rollout of its capacity onto third-party booking portals through a new partnership with CargoAi….

Read More

Share this story

Qatar Cargo undertakes roarsome flight

Qatar Airways Cargo has again teamed up with Animal Defenders International (ADI) to transport six young lions to Africa after…

Read More

Share this story

Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]