Dec air cargo demand soars 10.8%, 2023 demand down slightly, says IATA

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Dec air cargo demand soars 10.8%
Photo by Patrick Campanale on Unsplash
  • Global air cargo demand in December jumped 10.8% year-on-year, according to the International Air Transport Association
  • Full-year demand, however, marginally trailed behind 2022 and 2019 levels
  • IATA director general Willie Walsh emphasized the industry’s resilience, positioning it for success in 2024, albeit with caution about ongoing geopolitical and economic uncertainties
  • The recent disruption to maritime routes in the Red Sea has seen some shippers pivot to air cargo

The global air cargo demand in December jumped 10.8% year-on-year even as full-year 2023 demand slightly trailed behind 2022 and 2019 levels, the International Air Transport Association said in a statement.

December 2023 global demand rose 11.5% for international operations, the strongest annual growth in the past two years. Global capacity surged by 13.6% above 2022 levels, up 14.1% for international operations.

For the whole of 2023, global demand measured in cargo ton-kilometers (CTKs) dipped 1.9% compared to 2022 (-2.2% for international operations) and slid 3.6% vis-à-vis 2019 (-3.8% for international operations).

Capacity, measured in available cargo-ton kilometers (ACTKs), increased by 11.3% in 2023 over 2022 (+9.6% for international operations). In contrast to 2019 (pre-COVID) levels, capacity rose by 2.5% (flat for international operations).

The significant strengthening in the last quarter indicates a more stable market, said IATA director general Willie Walsh, positioning the industry for success in 2024. He also emphasized the industry’s resilience in regaining ground lost in 2022 after the extraordinary COVID peak in 2021.

However, Walsh cautioned about ongoing geopolitical and economic uncertainties.

Notable indicators include the growth of global cross-border trade for the third consecutive month in October; December inflation below 3.5% year-on-year in the United States and the EU; and the Purchasing Managers Indexes (PMIs) for manufacturing output and new export orders hovering below the 50-mark in December.

“The recent disruption to maritime routes in the Red Sea has seen some shippers pivot to air cargo. The increased demand saw a spike in air cargo yields on related trade lanes. A similar spike is expected in January as disruptions intensified. While not all cargo is suitable for air transport, it is a vital option for some of the most urgent shipments in extraordinary circumstances. And that is critical to the continuity of the global economy,” said Walsh.

As a result of the ongoing Red Sea disruption, global air cargo demand increased by 1% and yields rose by 5% in November and December 2023.

Performance by region in December is as follows:

  • Asia-Pacific: 18.5% increase in demand, 31.1% capacity increase
  • North America: 2.0% decrease in demand, 2.4% capacity increase
  • Europe: 8.6% increase in demand, 7.4% capacity increase
  • Middle East: 18.3% increase in demand, 17.7% capacity increase
  • Latin America: 6.4% increase in demand, 3.5% capacity increase
  • Africa: 1.2% decrease in demand, 7.4% capacity increase

READ: Air cargo demand rose 8.3% in Nov; 2023 strongest growth in 2 years