The International Air Transport Association (IATA, referred to as “IATA”) regular data on the global air cargo market in September 2023 shows that air cargo demand continues to recover.
Global air cargo demand, measured in freight tons kilometers (CTKs*), increased by 1.9% year-on-year in September 2022 (international demand increased by 1.6%).
Capacity (available freight ton kilometers, ACTKs) increased by 12.1% compared to September 2022 (international capacity increased by 11.0%). Capacity growth was mainly attributable to international belly hold capacity, which increased by 31.5% year-on-year as airlines ramped up operations to meet demand during the northern hemisphere’s summer travel season.
Changes in important indicators of the air cargo operating environment:
In September, both the manufacturing output PMI (49.7) and the new export orders PMI (47.7) improved slightly from the previous month, but were still below the 50 line, indicating that although the annual decline in global manufacturing production and exports has Slowing down, but still continuing to decline.
In August, global cross-border trade shrank for five consecutive months, down 3.8% year-on-year, indicating a cooling of the global macroeconomic environment.
In September, the annual growth rate of U.S. consumer prices held steady at 3.7%, the same as in August. Consumer price inflation in Europe and Japan slowed by 1.0 and 0.2 percentage points, respectively, to 4.9% and 3.0%. China’s anti-deflation policy measures pushed up annual consumer prices by 0.1%.

In September, the average price of jet fuel was US$131.0 per barrel, an increase of 43.1% from the price in May 2023. Recovering some of the increased costs from September surcharges, air cargo earnings have increased since November 2022.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, said: “Despite falling trade volumes and high jet fuel prices, air cargo maintained modest growth (1.9%) in September, underscoring the continued growth of air cargo. Where the value lies. With key export orders and manufacturing PMI moving in a positive direction, we are cautiously optimistic about how the year-end peak season will play out.”
Performance by region in September
Asia Pacific airlines’ air cargo volume increased by 7.7% in September 2023 compared with the same period in 2022. Compared with August (up 4.6%), there was a significant improvement. Airlines in the region benefited from growth in three major trade corridors: Europe-Asia (up 9.6%), Middle East-Asia (up 7.0%) and Africa-Asia (up 12.8%). Compared with September 2022, the region’s airlines’ available capacity increased by 30.5%, thanks to increased belly hold capacity as a result of the recovery in passenger traffic (a year ago, the two main Asian markets of China and Japan were still under epidemic travel restrictions).
North American airlines had the weakest performance in September, with cargo volumes falling 2.2%. There was a decrease from August (down 1.4%). Although the decline in the North American-Asia trade channel narrowed (-1.8% in September from -4.3% in August), the North American-European market held steady at -2.5% for two consecutive months. Operators in the region did not benefit from this. Compared with September 2022, capacity increased by 0.2%.
European airlines’ air cargo volumes fell by 1.5% in September compared with the same period in 2022. There was a decrease from August (down 0.6%). Operators in the region were affected by further contraction in the European interior market (-5.7% in September vs -5.2% in August). Gains from the expansion of the Middle East-Europe trade route (+3.3% in September vs. 0.5% in August) offset some of the decline in interior Europe. Shipping capacity in September increased by 4.7% year-on-year.
Middle Eastern airlines had the strongest performance in September 2023, with cargo traffic increasing by 2.5% year-on-year. This was an improvement from last month’s performance (up 1.3%). Operators in the region benefited from growth in the Middle East-Asia market (up 7.0%) and the Middle East-Europe market (up 3.3%). Shipping capacity in September increased by 16.1% year-on-year.
Cargo traffic for Latin American airlines increased by 2.3% year-on-year in September 2022. There was a significant decrease from the previous month (up 6.2%). Shipping capacity in September increased by 14.4% year-on-year.
African airlines’ air cargo volumes fell by 0.1% in September 2023, despite strong demand growth of 12.8% on the Africa-Asia route. Performance improved compared to August (down 3.5%). Shipping capacity in September increased by 2.7% year-on-year.

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