Export|Manufacturing|transport|Manufacturing |Operations
Export|Manufacturing|transport|Manufacturing |Operations

IATA reports that the air cargo sector regained lost ground during 2023

1st February 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Global total air cargo demand in December was “exceptionally strong”, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported. (IATA is the representative body for the worldwide airline industry.) It was 10.8% up, year-on-year, with the increase in international demand being 11.5%. Total air cargo capacity was up 13.6% in December (up 14.1% for international operations), again year-on-year.

For the whole of 2023, total global air cargo demand was down, compared with 2022, but only by 1.9%. In comparison with 2019, the last year before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2023 demand was down 3.6%. Regarding international demand, last year this was 2.2% less than in 2022, and 3.8% below the 2019 level. Total capacity in 2023 was up 11.3% on 2022, but by 9.6% for international operations, while the equivalent comparisons with 2019 were 2.5% and zero percent, respectively.  

“Despite political and economic challenges, 2023 saw air cargo markets regain ground lost in 2022 after the extraordinary Covid peak in 2021,” affirmed IATA director-general Willie Walsh. “Although full-year demand was shy of pre-Covid levels by 3.6%, the significant strengthening in the last quarter is a sign that markets are stabilising towards more normal demand patterns. That puts the industry on very solid ground for success in 2024. But with continued, and in some cases intensifying, instability in geopolitics and economic forces, little should be taken for granted in the months ahead.”

Important indicators for trade were mixed in December. For the third month in a row, global cross-border trade registered growth, reversing its previous downward trend. But both the manufacturing output and new export order Purchasing Managers Indices remained below the key 50-point level in December. These indices were leading indicators for air cargo demand, and levels below 50 usually signalled contraction.

Regarding December inflation in key markets, in both the European Union and the US this stayed below 3.5%, year-on-year. But China showed deflation, for the third consecutive month, causing concerns that the country’s economy might be slowing down.

“The recent disruption to maritime routes in the Red Sea has seen some shippers pivot to air cargo,” he reported. “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.”     

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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