IATA reports small growth in air cargo demand in September

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IATA has released data for global air cargo performance in September that shows that the industry enjoyed a continued moderate recovery in the month.

Global demand, as measured in cargo tonne km, increased by 1.9 percent compared to September 2022 levels (and was up by 1.6 percent specifically for international operations).

Capacity, as measured in available cargo tonne km, rose by 12.1 percent compared to September 2022 (and was up by 11.0 percent specifically for international operations).

Growth was largely attributable to the increase in available international bellyhold capacity, which rose 31.5 percent year on year as airlines scaled up operations to meet peak-northern summer travel season demand, IATA said.

There are concerns that should be noted, however, IATA said. One is the fact that global cross-border trade contracted for the fifth month in a row in August, falling by 3.8 percent year on year. This, IATA opined, reflected the cooling global macroeconomic environment.

In September, the average price of jet fuel was $131 per barrel, representing a 43.1 percent increase from the May 2023 price. Recouping some of this added cost from surcharges in September contributed to the first increase in air cargo yields since November 2022.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, remarked: “Air cargo eked out modest growth (1.9 percent) in September despite falling trade volumes and high jet fuel prices. That clearly shows the strength of air cargo’s value proposition.

“With the key export order and manufacturing PMIs hovering near positive territory, we can be cautiously optimistic for a strong year-end peak season.”

September’s relatively good news followed some similarly positive tidings for August. As part of its air cargo market analysis for that month, IATA noted that demand increased by 1.5 percent year on year in August, the first annual growth since February 2022.

Air cargo market in detail – September 2023

September 2023

(% year-on-year)      World share1 CTK     ACTK              CLF (%-pt)2    CLF (level)3

Total Market              100.0%           1.9%   12.1%             -4.4%              43.8%

Africa                          2.0%               -0.1%  2.7%               -1.2%              43.6%

Asia Pacific                 32.4%             7.7%   30.5%             -9.9%              46.6%

Europe                       21.8%             -1.5%  4.7%               -3.1%              50.0%

Latin America            2.7%               2.3%   14.4%             -3.8%              31.9%

Middle East                13.0%             2.5%   16.1%             -5.6%              42.4%

North America           28.1%             -2.2%  0.2%               -1.0%              39.2%

1% of industry CTKs in 2022   2year-on-year change in load factor   3Load Factor Level


Performance differed across geographical regions, as would be expected.

Asia Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 7.7 percent in September 2023 compared to the same month of 2022; this was also a significant improvement in performance compared to August (up by 4.6 percent).

North American carriers had the weakest performance of all the regions, with a 2.2 percent fall in cargo volumes. This was also a decline in performance compared to August (of 1.4 percent).

European carriers’ air cargo volumes fell by 1.5 percent year on year in September. September was a weaker performance than August for European air carriers (down by 0.6 percent).

Middle Eastern carriers had the strongest performance of all, enjoying a 2.5 percent year on year increase in cargo volumes. This was also an improvement compared to the previous month (of 1.3 percent).

Latin American carriers enjoyed a 2.3 percent increase in cargo volumes compared to September 2022. However, this was a significant decrease in performance compared to the previous month (of 6.2 percent).

African airlines saw their air cargo volumes decline by 0.1 percent in September. This was an improvement in performance compared to August (down 3.5 percent), however.

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