February 22, 2024
Logistics Business

Global air cargo demand rises 3.8% in October 2023

Middle Eastern carriers record the strongest regional performance

International air cargo demand – measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) – rose 3.8% in October 2023 compared to October 2022, indicating the third consecutive month of stronger year-on-year demand, according to the latest data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

With demand for international operations lagging slightly at 3.5%, air cargo capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), was up 13.1% in October 2023 compared to October 2022 (11.1% for international operations). This rise was related to the growth in belly capacity. Global belly capacity, for example, rose 30.5% year-on-year on the strength of passenger markets.

IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh said: “Demand for air cargo was up 3.8% in October [2023]. That marks three consecutive months of year-on-year growth, placing air cargo on course to end 2023 on a much stronger footing than it began the year.

“Recovering demand, slightly stronger yields and the uptick in trade are all good news. But with demand still 2.4% below pre-pandemic levels and much uncertainty remaining over the trajectory of the global economy, optimism must be balanced with caution.

“Nonetheless, a continued strong peak year-end season will certainly help the sector to manage through whatever turns the global economy might take in 2024,” said Walsh.

Regional performance

Middle East

Regarding regional performance in October 2023, Middle Eastern airlines recorded the strongest performance, with a 10.9% year-on-year increase in cargo volumes. This significantly improved from the previous month’s performance (+2.5%).

Carriers in the region benefited from growth in the Middle East–Asia (+10.3%) and Middle East–Europe markets (+17.1%). Capacity increased by 15% compared to October 2022.

Asia-Pacific

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 7.6% in October 2023 compared to the same month in 2022. This performance was close to par with the previous month (+7.7%). Carriers in the region benefited from ongoing growth in international CTKs on three major trade lanes: Africa-Asia (+16.7%, the most significant annual growth since May 2023), Middle East-Asia (+10.3%) and Europe-Asia (+8.5%).

air cargo
A Cathay Cargo Boeing 747 freighter. Asia-Pacific carriers benefitted from new belly capacity in October 2023. Image: Cathay

Available capacity for the region’s airlines increased by 30.0% compared to October 2022 as more belly capacity came online from the passenger side of the business (a year ago, the key Asian markets of Japan and China were still mainly under severe pandemic travel restrictions).

North America

North American airlines registered the weakest performance in October 2023, with a 1.8% decrease (YoY) in cargo volumes. This was a slight performance improvement compared to September 2023 (-2.2%).

Although the North America-Asia trade lane recorded an increase in international CTKs (from -1.8% in September 2023 to -0.9% in October 2023) and the North America-Europe market saw a slight improvement in international CTKs (from -2.7% in September to -2.1% in October), carriers in the region did not benefit significantly. Capacity increased by 2.4% compared to October 2022.

Europe

European carriers saw their air cargo volumes increase by 1.0% in October 2023 compared to the same month in 2022. This performance was more robust than September 2023 (-1.5%). Carriers in the region benefitted from the first growth in international CTKs in the European market since January 2022 (-4.2% in September 2023 vs +3.4% in October 2023).

Gains from the expansion in the Middle East-Europe trade lane (+17.1% in October) also benefited carriers in the region. Capacity increased by 7.0% in October 2023 compared to 2022.

South America

South American airlines experienced a 4.0% increase in cargo volumes in October 2023 compared to October 2022, a notable increase from the previous month’s gain (+2.3%). Capacity in October was up 8.3% compared to the same month in 2022.

Africa

African airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 2.9% in October 2023, much improved compared to the September 2023 performance (-0.1%). Carriers in the region benefitted from the most substantial annual growth since May (+16.7%). Capacity was 9.8% above the October 2022 levels.

IATA represents 320 airlines, comprising 83% of global air traffic.

Featured image: Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 7.6% in October 2023 compared to the same month in 2022. Image: Cathay

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, space, aerospace, aviation, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, fashion, and automotive verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally and protecting the world’s oceans from plastic pollution, overfishing, and climate change. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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