Air Cargo Demand up 1.9% in September, Continuing Growth Momentum
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data showing a steady recovery in global air cargo markets in September 2023.
Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), increased by 1.9% compared to September 2022 (+6% for international operations).
Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), also saw a significant increase of 12.1% compared to September 2022 (+0% for international operations). This growth can largely be attributed to the rise in international belly capacity, which saw a year-on-year increase of 31.5% as airlines ramped up their operations to meet the high demand during the peak northern summer travel season.
Economic Factors Impacting Airline Cargo
It is important to note several factors in the current operating environment:
- In September, the manufacturing output Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) improved slightly to 49.7, while the new export orders PMI also saw a slight improvement at 47.7. Although these numbers indicate a continuing decline in global manufacturing production and exports, the decline has slowed.
- Furthermore, global cross-border trade contracted for the fifth consecutive month in August, with a year-over-year decrease of 3.8%. This decline is a result of the cooling global macroeconomic environment.
- Moving on to consumer prices, annual growth in the US stabilized at 3.7% in September, maintaining the same rate as in August. However, in Europe and Japan, consumer price inflation slowed down by 1.0 and 0.2 percentage points, respectively, with rates of 4.9% and 3.0%. Conversely, China experienced a slight annual rise in consumer prices of 0.1% due to deflation-fighting policy measures.
- Lastly, the average jet fuel price in September was USD 131.0 per barrel, which marked a significant increase of 43.1% compared to May 2023. However, airlines were able to recoup some of this added cost through surcharges, leading to the first increase in air cargo yields since November 2022.
“Air cargo eked out modest growth (1.9%) 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,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
Air cargo market in detail
|September 2023 (%year-on-year)||World Share *1||CTK||ACTK||CLF (%-pt) *2||CLF (level) *3|
|(1) % of industry CTKs in 2022 (2) Year-on-year change in load factor (*3) Load factor level|
IATA: Air Cargo Regional Performance, September
Asia Pacific Airlines
In September 2023, the air cargo volumes for Asia-Pacific airlines witnessed a significant increase of 7.7% compared to the same month in 2022. This growth outperformed the previous month of August, which saw a 4.6% increase. The carriers in this region benefited from the expansion on three major trade routes: Europe-Asia (+9.6%), Middle East-Asia (+7.0%), and Africa-Asia (+12.8%). The capacity availability also rose by 30.5% compared to September 2022, mainly due to the resumption of passenger travel in key Asian markets like Japan and China after the COVID-19 travel restrictions were eased.
North American Airlines
On the other hand, North American carriers experienced a decline in cargo volumes in September, with a decrease of 2.2%. This performance was weaker than the previous month’s decline of 1.4%. Although the contraction on the North America-Asia trade route improved (from -4.3% in August to -1.8% in September) and the North America-Europe market stabilized with a decline of -2.5% for the second consecutive month, the carriers in the region did not benefit significantly. The capacity slightly increased by 0.2% when compared to September 2022.
In September 2023, European carriers observed a decline of 1.5% in air cargo volumes compared to the same month in 2022. This performance was weaker than the previous month’s decline of 0.6%. The carriers in this region faced contractions in the intra-Europe market (-5.7% in September compared to -5.2% in August). However, the expansion in the Middle East-Europe trade route (+3.3% in September compared to +0.5% in August) partially offset the decline. The capacity increased by 4.7% in September 2023 compared to the previous year.
Middle Eastern Airlines
Middle Eastern carriers had the strongest performance in September 2023, witnessing a 2.5% year-on-year increase in cargo volumes. This was an improvement compared to the previous month’s performance of 1.3%. The carriers in this region benefited from the growth in the Middle East–Asia (+7.0%) and Middle East–Europe markets (+3.3%). The capacity also increased by 16.1% compared to September 2022.
Latin American Airlines
Latin American carriers experienced a 2.3% increase in cargo volumes compared to September 2022. However, this was a significant decrease compared to the previous month’s growth of 6.2%. The capacity in September 2023 increased by 14.4% compared to the same month in 2022.
In September 2023, African airlines witnessed a slight decline of 0.1% in air cargo volumes. Despite the strong growth on the Africa-Asia trade route (+12.8%), the overall performance improved compared to the previous month’s decline of 3.5%. The capacity was 2.7% higher than the levels observed in September 2022.