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Air cargo demand decline slows down in April

Air cargo demand in April continued to decline, albeit at a slower pace than the previous month, according to IATA’s latest market data.


The airline association’s April 2023 figures showed that demand, in cargo tonne kms (CTKs), fell 6.6% over April 2022 although this was an improvement over the previous month’s 7.6% year on year decline.





Meanwhile, capacity (in available cargo tonne-km, ACTK) was up 13.4% in April 2023 compared to the same month in 2022. It was also up 3.2% compared to April 2019, the first time in three years that it has surpassed pre-Covid levels.


The sharp rise was mainly due to more belly capacity on the back of recovering passenger business and flights. Freighter capacity meanwhile declined by 2.3%.


March 2023 also saw the last ‘preighter’ (passenger aircraft pressed into service to carry cargo) flights, after 2½ years.


However, market fundamentals appeared to be strong. The global new export orders component of the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) improved in April, while China’s PMI surpassed the critical 50 mark, indicating growing demand for manufactured goods there.

Global trade in goods increased 0.2% in March, the first annual rise since November 2022.

Consumer and producer prices increases have also moderated, said IATA.


IATA director general, Willie Walsh, said: “The air cargo industry is adjusting itself to the implications of the recovery in passenger demand that brings with it an expansion of belly capacity. Preighter operations stopped in March and freighter services were scaled back by 2.3% in April.


“The demand environment is challenging to read. Tapering inflation is definitely a positive. But the degree and speed at which that could lead to looser monetary policies that might stimulate demand is unclear. The resilience that got the air cargo industry through the Covid-19 crisis is also critical in the aftermath.”

Source: IATA


Regionally, Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 0.4% decrease in air cargo volumes in April 2023 compared to the same month in 2022, a significant improvement compared with March’s 6.8% decline. Capacity in the region increased 41.2% compared to April 2022 as belly space came on line.


As in March, North American carriers posted the weakest performance of all regions with a 13.1% decrease in cargo volumes in April compared to April 2022. Moreover, said IATA: “This was a drop in performance compared to March (-10.2%).” It noted that North American carriers suffered a significant decrease in international demand due to a substantial fall in volumes on major trade lanes – North America-Europe (-13.5%) and North America-Asia (-9.3%). Capacity fell 1.5% compared to April 2022.


European carriers saw an 8.2% decrease in cargo volumes in April compared to 2022, slightly worse than the 7.4% decline seen in March. International demand was sharply down, reflecting not only the weakness in North America but also within Europe where volume fell 16.1%, only partially offset by strong Europe-Asia demand, which was up 3.4%.

Middle Eastern carriers saw a 6.8% year-on-year decrease in cargo volume in April compared with the 5.5% fall in the previous month while capacity increased 10.0% compared to April 2022.


Latin American carriers reported a 1.6% decrease in April cargo volume, rather better than March’s 4.4% decline while capacity was up 8.1% compared to 2022.

African airlines posted the only positive performance in April with a 0.9% increase in demand compared to 2022, a contrast to the previous month’s 4.3% decline. The Africa to Asia trade was the star performer, with demand in April up 20.0% year-on-year and with capacity 5.3% above April 2022.


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