Air cargo demand rises 1.5% in August, first growth in 19 months

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  • Air cargo demand grew by 1.5% in August 2023, the first increase in 19 months, offering hope for the struggling industry
  • Globally, cargo capacity increased by 12.2%, mainly due to airlines using passenger planes for cargo during the summer travel season
  • Factors like slow manufacturing, declining cross-border trade, and mixed inflation rates still pose challenges to a full industry recovery
  • Regional performance was a mixed bag with Asia-Pacific and Latin America seeing improvements, while Africa struggled
  • While there are lingering concerns, the upcoming busy year-end season offers a reason for cautious optimism

Global air cargo demand grew in August, rising by 1.5% year-on-year (as measured in cargo tonne-kilometers or CTKs), the first improvement in 19 months or since February 2022, according to the latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The capacity for shipping goods by air (measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers, or ACTKs) went up by 12.2% year-on-year mainly because airlines increased belly capacity by 30% to meet the high summer travel demand.

The growth came amid the improvement, albeit slower, in manufacturing and exports in August; shrinking trade for the last four months in a row; and mixed inflation.

Willie Walsh, IATA director general, said it is essential to stay cautious despite the positive news. While there are lingering concerns, the upcoming busy year-end season offers a reason for cautious optimism.

Airlines in the Asia-Pacific moved 4.9% more air cargo in August from the same month last year. This compares with 2.3% in July. Asia-Pacific airlines also benefited from more cargo space in planes, which grew by 28.5%.

In North America, air cargo volumes dropped 1.2% in August but better than the July drop of 5.4%. More cargo space was also available, up by 2.7%.

European airlines saw a dip of 0.2% in volumes. There was more cargo space, which increased by 3.6%.

Airlines in the Middle East saw a 1.4% increase, a departure from -0.1% recorded in July. The space for cargo in planes rose by 15.7%.

Latin American carriers moved 6.2% more cargo compared to August 2022, with cargo space growing by 13.7%.

African airlines carried 4.7% less cargo compared to August 2022. The cargo space grew by 3.8%.

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