Global air cargo demand continued to decrease in March, reports IATA

4th May 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Air cargo, worldwide, continued to decline in March, in year-on-year terms, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported. (IATA is the global representative body for the airline sector.) The declining trend actually began in March last year.

Year-on-year, global air cargo demand was down 7.7%, while international air cargo traffic fell by 8.1%. Compared to demand before the Covid-19 pandemic, air cargo traffic in March this year registered a decrease of (also) 8.1%. Yet the March 2023 year-on-year decline in global traffic was an improvement over the figure for February (down 9.4%) and significantly better than the figures for January (a drop of 16.8%) and December 2022 (a fall of 15.6%). IATA noted that it was currently unclear if this signalled the beginning of an improving trend or merely reflected a temporary upside in a volatile market.

“Air cargo had a volatile first quarter,” observed IATA director-general Willie Walsh. “In March, overall demand slipped back below pre-Covid-19 levels and most of the indicators for the fundamental drivers of air cargo demand are weak or weakening. While the trading environment is tough, there is some good news. Airlines are getting help in managing through the volatility with yields that have remained high and fuel prices that have moderated from exceptionally high levels. Looking ahead, with inflation reducing in [Group of Seven leading democratic] countries, policy makers are expected to ease economic cooling measures and that will stimulate demand.”

IATA pointed out that the global economy continued to decelerate, because of tightening global financial conditions, high levels of debt, and supply chain problems. Purchasing Manager Indices for new export orders were below the key 50-point level for the whole 12 months from April 2022 to March 2023. Indices also indicate companies were holding high levels of inventory, which tended to reduce air cargo demand. And the global goods trade declined by 2.6% in February, which was a deterioration over the 1% decrease in January.

In year-on-year terms, the region that performed best was Latin America, with a decline of 5.3%, but this represented a deterioration in month-on-month terms, as the year-on-year decrease registered in February had been only 2.9%. After Latin America came the Middle East, with a year-on-year fall of 5.5%, which was an improvement over the February drop of 7.1%.

Africa followed with a decline of 6.2% in March, which was again an improvement over the 7.4% year-on-year fall recorded in February. IATA noted “significant cargo demand growth” on African-Asian routes in March.

For the Asia-Pacific, March saw a year-on-year decrease of 7.3%, which was a decline relative to the February year-on-year fall of 5.4%. For Europe, March saw a year-on-year decrease of 7.8%, but this was a significant improvement over February, which recorded a year-on-year drop of 15.9%; the war in Ukraine was still affecting European carriers more than any others. North America was the worst-performing region, with a fall of 9.4% in March, although this was a slight improvement over February’s year-on-year drop of 10.3%.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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