LONDON – According to data just released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global air cargo sector has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The newly released data for global air freight markets shows that 2022 full-year demand for air cargo took a significant step back from 2021 levels, but was nevertheless close to 2019 performance.
Global full-year demand in 2022, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was down 8.0% compared to 2021 (-8.2% for international operations). Compared to 2019, it was down 1.6% (both global and international).
Capacity in 2022, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), was 3.0% above 2021 (+4.5% for international operations). Compared to 2019 (pre-COVID) levels, capacity declined by 8.2% (-9.0% for international operations).
Mixed signals for year end
2022 ended with mixed signals. Firstly, December saw a softening in performance: global demand was 15.3% below 2021 levels (-15.8% for international operations).
Global new export orders, a leading indicator of cargo demand, have stayed at the same level since October. For major economies, new export orders are shrinking except in Germany, the US, and Japan, where they grew.
Global goods trade decreased by 1.5% in November, down from a 3.4% increase in October.
The Consumer Price Index for G7 countries indicated inflation tracking at 6.8% for December. The 0.6 percentage point drop compared to November (7.4%) was the largest over the course of year.
“In the face of significant political and economic uncertainties, air cargo performance declined compared to the extraordinary levels of 2021.”
“That brought air cargo demand to1.6% below 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels. The continuing measures by key governments to fight inflation by cooling economies are expected to result in a further decline in cargo volumes in 2023 to -5.6% compared to 2019.”
“It will, however, take time for these measures to bite into cargo rates. So, the good news for air cargo is that average yields and total revenue for 2023 should remain well above what they were pre-pandemic.”
“That should provide some respite in what is likely to be a challenging trading environment in the year ahead,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
2022 Air Cargo Regional Performance
Here is a brief overview of some of the key points from regional air cargo markets. The full IATA analysis can be found here.
In December, Asia-Pacific airlines recorded the worst performance of all regions, posting a 21.2% decrease in demand (-20.4% for international operations) compared to 2021.
Airlines in the region continue to be impacted by lower levels of trade and manufacturing activity and disruptions in supply chains due to China’s rising COVID cases.
North American carriers
A 5.1% decrease in demand in 2022 compared to 2021 (-6.3% for international operations) and a capacity increase of 4.2% (+4.9% for international operations).
European operators posted the worst year-on-year performance of all regions, with an 11.5% decrease in demand in 2022 compared to 2021 (-11.8% for international operations).
Airlines in the region continue to be most affected by the war in Ukraine.
Middle Eastern carriers
The Middle East reported a decrease of 10.7% for global and international demand in 2022 compared to 2021 and an increase in capacity of 4.3% (+4.5% for international operations).
Latin American carriers
The Latin America region posted the strongest year-on-year performance of all regions, with an 13.1% increase in demand in 2022 compared to 2021 (+15.0% for international operations).
Capacity grew 27.6% (+32.7% for international operations) during the same period.
African operators reported a decrease in demand of 1.4% for global and international demand in 2022 compared to 2021 and an increase in capacity of 0.3% (-0.2% for international operations).
Capacity grew 1.3% (+0.2% for international operations) during the same period.