Global Air Cargo Shows Continued Growth in April

A Korean Air Cargo 747 turns on the taxiway.
Aleksandr MarkinРусский: Александр Маркин, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released positive data on global air cargo markets for April 2024.

The monthly report shows a continuation of the strong performance witnessed across the first quarter of the year.

This marks the fifth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth. Overall, the total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), increased by 11.1% compared to April 2023 (11.6% for international operations).

Air Cargo Now on Solid Ground

While some economic uncertainties remain, air cargo demand appears to be on solid ground. Notably, growth has continued even during periods when the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) signaled potential contraction.

With the PMI now indicating expansion, the outlook for sustained growth strengthens further.

“Air cargo demand started Q2 with a solid 11.1% increase,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

“Despite ongoing economic concerns, the fundamentals behind air cargo’s strong performance seem to be solidifying.

The recent positive PMI readings, indicating growth in manufacturing and exports, further bolster the prospects for continued strong demand.”

Influencing Factors

Key factors influencing the operating environment have been identified as:

Positive PMI readings

In April, the PMIs for global manufacturing output and new export orders finally moved into positive territory (51.5 and 50.5, respectively).

This marks the first time in two years that the new export orders PMI has shown growth.

Mixed production and trade

Industrial production increased by 1.6% year-on-year in March, while global cross-border trade contracted by 0.8%.

Stable inflation

Inflation remained relatively stable across major economies in April, with rates at 3.4% (US), 2.6% (EU), and 2.5% (Japan).

China also reported a positive sign with a modest 0.2% increase in consumer prices year-on-year, easing concerns about a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

A Pacific Air Cargo 747 freighter on the ramp as day breaks.
Photo Credit: Pacific Air Cargo

April Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific leads the pack

Asia-Pacific airlines saw the strongest demand growth at 14.0% year-on-year.

Notably, demand within the Asia market itself grew by 13.2%, and the key Asia-Europe route experienced a significant 17.7% increase. Year-on-year capacity increased by 7.8% in the region.

North America shows slowest growth:

North American carriers recorded the weakest regional growth at 7.0% year-on-year.

However, the North America-Europe route saw its strongest demand increase since September 2022 at 5.6%. Capacity grew by 4.0% year-on-year in North America.

An American Airlines Cargo aircraft is loaded with supplies bound for Haiti
Photo Credit: American Airlines

Europe rebounds with strong intra-regional growth

European carriers reported a 12.7% year-on-year rise in demand. Intra-European air cargo boomed with a remarkable 34.4% increase compared to April 2023.

This marks the highest annual growth in over a decade. Capacity increased by 10.3% year-on-year.

Growth across other regions

  • Middle East: Carriers saw 9.4% year-on-year demand growth, with the Middle East-Europe route performing particularly well at 30.1% annual growth. Capacity increased by 5.7% year-on-year.
  • Latin America: Airlines experienced a 11.7% year-on-year demand increase. Capacity grew by 9.8% year-on-year.
  • Africa: African airlines reported a 10.6% year-on-year demand increase, with the Africa-Asia market experiencing a significant 25.8% growth. Capacity increased by a substantial 18.7% year-on-year.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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