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Strong Start For Air Cargo In 2024, IATA Reports

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported an impressive increase in global air cargo markets for January 2024, with a rise in demand by 18.4% and capacity expansion by 14.6% compared to last year. International operations saw even higher growth rates.

Loading cargo into the aircraft before departure.

The boost in demand, notably the highest since 2021, is partly driven by the thriving e-commerce sector, despite concerns about potential impacts from China’s economic downturn.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, remarked: “Air cargo demand was up 18.4% year-on-year in January. This is a strong start to the year. In particular, the booming e-commerce sector is continuing to help air cargo demand to trend above growth in both trade and production since the last quarter of 2023. The counterweight to this good news is uncertainty over how China’s economic slowdown will unfold. This will be on the minds of air cargo executives meeting in Hong Kong next week for the IATA World Cargo Symposium with an agenda focused on digitalization, efficiency and sustainability.”

Although air cargo performance is robust, cross-border trade has seen only a modest increase, and the PMI index suggests only a marginal expansion in manufacturing output. At the same time, inflation is slowly subsiding in significant economies, but China is experiencing deflation for the fourth month, triggering fears of a prolonged economic slowdown.

Air Cargo Market Table – January 2024

IATA chart, Air Cargo Market in Detail January 2024

January Regional Air Cargo Performance

In January 2024, Asia-Pacific airlines witnessed a 24.6% increase in air cargo volumes year-over-year (YoY), outperforming other regions with significant trade gains to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The region saw a 25.0% increase in capacity due to additional passenger belly space.

North American carriers experienced a modest 9.3% rise in cargo volumes YoY, with improvements on trade lanes to Asia and Europe, and a 3.8% increase in capacity.

European carriers reported a 16.4% increase in cargo volumes YoY, with a sharp rise in capacity by 12.5%. The increase was due to solid performance within Europe and the Europe-Asia route and significant growth on the Middle East-Europe lane.

Middle Eastern carriers led the performance with a remarkable 25.9% YoY increase in cargo volumes and a 17.1% increase in capacity, driven by growth in the Middle East-Asia and Middle East-Europe markets.

Latin American carriers saw a 13.4% increase in cargo volumes YoY and a 6.6% increase in capacity.

African airlines observed a substantial 17.0% gain in cargo volumes compared to the previous year, with a 19.4% increase in capacity, benefiting mainly from the Africa-Asia trade lane growth.

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