IATA Air Freight Numbers Hint at Uncertainty


March stats show a 7.7% decline in demand compared to March 2022, but an improvement over the previous month.

Recent statistics for March 2023 suggest that air cargo markets are experiencing a “continued decline” against last year’s demand performance—a trend that began in March 2022—according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Global demand, which is measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), fell 7.7% compared to March of last year (-8.1% for international operations). This was a slight improvement over the previous February’s performance however (-9.4%), and half the rate of annual decline seen in January and December (-16.8% and -15.6% respectively). IATA has noted that it is currently unclear as to if this is start of an improvement trend or the upside of market volatility.

Image Credit: IATA

Image Credit: IATA

Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers, or ACTKs, was up 9.9% compared to March 2022. The ACTK increase is in parallel with the addition of belly capacity, as the passenger side of the business continues to recover.

“Air cargo had a volatile first quarter. In March, overall demand slipped back below pre-Covid-19 levels and most of the indicators for the fundamental drivers of air cargo demand are weak or weakening,” says Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. “While the trading environment is tough, there is some good news. Airlines are getting help in managing through the volatility with yields that have remained high and fuel prices that have moderated from exceptionally high levels.”

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