Air Cargo Demand Soars in April, Driven by E-Commerce and Capacity Constraints

According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), air cargo demand remained robust in April, marking the fifth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth, despite a slight slowdown in month-on-month expansion. IATA released data indicating that total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), rose by 11.1% compared to April 2023 levels.

The trade association attributed this robust growth to booming e-commerce and capacity constraints in global maritime shipping.

“Air cargo demand started Q2 with a solid 11.1% increase,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “While many economic uncertainties remain, it appears that the roots of air cargo’s strong performance are deepening. In recent months, air cargo demand grew even when the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was indicating the potential for contraction. With the PMI now indicating growth, the prospects for continued strong demand are even more robust.”

Despite recording 21.7 billion CTKs globally in April—a significant 11.1% year-on-year increase—this represented a 6.5% reduction compared to the previous month. Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), increased by 7.1% compared to April 2023, reflecting similar growth to the previous month.

IATA notes that the global economy has been performing well and this marks the first time in two years that the new export orders PMI has been in growth territory.

Industrial production increased by 1.6% in March year-on-year, although global cross-border trade contracted by 0.8%. Inflation remained relatively stable across key markets, with rates at 3.4% in the US, 2.6% in the EU, and 2.5% in Japan. China reported a 0.2% year-on-year increase in consumer prices, a positive signal amid concerns over the country’s economic slowdown.

Regionally, Asia-Pacific airlines led the way, recording 14.0% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in April, driven by a 17.7% increase on the Asia-Europe route. European carriers also saw strong growth, with demand rising by 12.7%. Intra-European air cargo experienced a record 34.4% increase compared to April 2023, the highest annual growth in over a decade.

While global air cargo demand continues to exhibit strong growth, supported by robust e-commerce activities and maritime shipping constraints, the industry faces ongoing economic uncertainties. However, with positive PMI indications and stable inflation rates, the prospects for continued demand remain promising. As airlines across different regions adapt to these dynamics, the air cargo sector is poised for sustained growth, benefiting from the diverse strengths of various global markets.

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