IATA: First air cargo demand growth in 19 months

Photo: Jaromir Chalabala/ Shutterstock

IATA has delivered some positive news for the airfreight industry with new data that shows year-on-year air cargo demand grew for the first time in 19 months, but it said the trajectory of global trade is a concern.

As part of its air cargo market analysis for August, the industry body noted that demand, measured in global cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs) increased by 1.5% year on year (YoY) in August, the first annual growth since February 2022.

However, industry CTKs remained 1.3% lower than their pre-pandemic level in 2019.

Meanwhile, air cargo capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), was up 12.2% year on year and 3.9% higher than 2019 levels.

“This was largely related to belly capacity which rose 30% year-on-year as airlines ramped-up operations to meet peak-northern summer travel season demand,” said IATA.

Economic challenges, specifically the “sustained annual contraction of trade” remain a concern for the industry, pointed out IATA.

The industry body added that inflation in the US continued to increase for the second month in a row, after 13 months of decline. And Although China’s CPI growth reverted to positive from the July level, the country recorded negative PPI in August for the 16th consecutive month.

IATA warned: “If global trade continues to weaken, air cargo demand may not significantly improve in the coming months.”

“Air cargo demand grew by 1.5% over the previous August. This is the first year-on-year growth in 19 months, so it is certainly welcome news. But it is off a low 2022 base and market signals are mixed.

“Looking ahead, while many uncertainties remain, we can take some optimism from PMI data moving towards positive territory. This is particularly significant as we head into air cargo’s traditional peak year-end season,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. 

Airlines in the Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East regions notably saw volume growth.

IATA said this was due to “improved traffic in major trade lanes”.

Source: IATA

Asia Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 4.9% in August year on year. The region saw improved performances on the Europe-Asia, Middle East-Asia, and within-Asia trade lanes.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 1.4% year-on-year increase in cargo volumes, mainly driven by the growth in demand on the Middle East-Europe market.

Latin American carriers continued to benefit following major industry restructuring, with a 6.2% increase in cargo volumes compared to August 2022.

European carriers saw their air cargo volumes decline by 0.2% in August compared to the same month in 2022. This was, however, an improvement in performance versus July (-1.0%).  

African airlines had the weakest performance in August 2023, with a 4.7% decline in cargo volumes compared to August 2022, affected by soft demand on the Africa-Asia trade lane.

Air cargo declines continue to narrow in July

Airfreight rates continue to rise in September

Special cargo volumes a bright spot in overall market declines




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Rebecca Jeffrey

Rebecca Jeffrey
New to aviation journalism, I joined Air Cargo News in late 2021 as deputy editor. I previously worked for Mercator Media’s six maritime sector magazines as a reporter, heading up news for Port Strategy. Prior to this, I was editor for Recruitment International (now TALiNT International). Contact me on: [email protected]