Amid Disruptions, Global Air Cargo Takes a Resilient Flight: IATA Report

This past year hasn’t been a bed of roses for the global air cargo industry with flat to weakening demand and the resultant bleak cargo revenue prospects. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), representing 83% of the world’s air cargo data, recently unveiled data showcasing a robust recovery in global air cargo markets during September 2023.

According to the report, global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), soared by 1.9% compared to September 2022, with a substantial 6% year-on-year increase for international operations. On the other hand, capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), witnessed a remarkable 12.1% year-on-year surge compared to the previous year, emphasizing the resilience of the air cargo sector. Similarly, international belly capacity rose 31.5% year-on-year as airlines scaled up operations to meet passenger demand during the ‘vacay’ season.

In September, both the manufacturing output Purchasing Managers Index or PMI and new export orders remained below the critical 50-point threshold, even though there was a slight improvement in numbers. This was the result of a dawdling annual decline in global manufacturing production and exports. Global cross-border trade also contracted for the fifth month in a row in August, decreasing 3.8% year-over-year. To add on, the average price of jet fuel was USD 131.0 per barrel, marking a 43.1% increase from the May 2023 price. 

Despite challenges such as falling trade volumes and soaring jet fuel prices, air cargo achieved a modest growth of 1.9% in September, highlighting the sector’s robust value proposition. Various economic indicators, including PMI and cross-border trade, indicated a mixed scenario with slight improvements but continued challenges in global manufacturing and exports.

Asia-Pacific airlines stood out with a 7.7% increase in air cargo volumes, driven by growth on major trade lanes. North American carriers faced a 2.2% decrease in cargo volumes, while European carriers experienced a 1.5% decline. Middle Eastern carriers led with a 2.5% year-on-year increase in cargo volumes, benefiting from growth in the Middle East–Asia and Middle East–Europe markets.

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