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Latest Air Cargo Numbers Show Sharp Growth in May

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for May 2024 global air cargo markets showing continuing strong annual growth in demand.

•    Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), rose by 14.7% compared to May 2023 levels (15.5% for international operations). This is the sixth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth.

•    Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), increased by 6.7% compared to May 2023 (10.2% for international operations).

“Air cargo demand moved sharply upwards in May across all regions. The sector benefitted from trade growth, booming e-commerce and capacity constraints on maritime shipping. The outlook remains largely positive with purchasing managers showing expectations for future growth. Some dampening, however, could come as the US imposes stricter conditions on e-commerce deliveries from China. Increased costs and transit times for shipments under $800 may deter US consumers and pose significant challenges for growth on the Asia-North America trade lane—the world’s biggest,” said Willie Walsh, IATA Director General.”

Several factors in the operating environment should be noted:
•    In May the Purchasing Managers Index (PMIs) for global manufacturing output and new export orders indicated expansion (52.6 and 50.4 respectively).

•    Industrial production and global cross-border trade increased month-on-month in April (0.5% and 1.5% respectively).

•    Inflation saw a mixed picture in May. In the EU and Japan, inflation rates fell to 2.7% and 2.8% respectively, while rising in the US to 3.3%. In contrast, China’s inflation rate remained near zero (0.3%) reflecting weak domestic demand due to high unemployment, slow income growth, and a crisis in the real estate sector, a trend that has persisted since 2023.

Air cargo market in detail – May 2024
May 2024
(% year-on-year)
World share1 CTK ACTK CLF (%-pt) CLF (level)
Total Market 100% 14.7% 6.7% 3.1% 44.6%
Africa 2.0% 18.4% 21.4% -1.1% 43.8%
Asia Pacific 33.3% 17.8% 8.4% 3.6% 45.3%
Europe 21.4% 17.2% 11.9% 2.3% 51.8%
Latin America 2.8% 12.7% 8.0% 1.5% 36.2%
Middle East 13.5% 15.3% 2.7% 5.0% 46.1%
North America 26.9% 8.7% 2.5% 2.3% 39.7%
1% of industry CTKs in 2023

May Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific airlines saw 17.8% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. Demand on the Africa-Asia trade lane grew by 40.6% year-on-year, while the Europe-Asia, Within Asia and Middle East-Asia trade lanes rose by 20.4%, 19.2% and 18.6% respectively. Capacity increased by 8.4% year-on-year.

North American carriers saw 8.7% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May —the weakest among all regions. Demand on the Asia-North America trade lane grew by 12.0% year-on-year, while the North America-Europe route saw an increase of 8.9%, marking the largest demand growth for this route since mid-2022. May capacity increased by 2.5% year-on-year.

European carriers saw 17.2% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. Intra-European air cargo rose by 25.6% compared to May 2023, the fifth month in a row of double-digit annual growth. Europe–Middle East routes saw demand increase by 33.8%.  May capacity increased 11.9% year-on-year.

Middle Eastern carriers saw 15.3% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. As mentioned above, the Middle East–Europe market performed particularly well with 33.8% annual growth, ahead of Middle East-Asia which grew by 18.6% year-on-year. May capacity increased 2.7% year-on-year.

Latin American carriers saw 12.7% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May. Capacity increased 8.0% year-on-year.

African airlines saw 18.4% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in May – the strongest of all regions. Demand on the Africa–Asia market increased by 40.6% compared to May 2023, the strongest performance of all trade lanes. May capacity increased by 21.4% year-on-year.

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