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Airlines’ adjustments to demand sees global air cargo contraction easing

Airlines’ adjustments to demand sees global air cargo contraction easing

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for June 2023 global air cargo markets showing the smallest year-over-year contraction in demand since February 2022.

This reflects strategic capacity adjustments airlines are making amid a weakened demand environment.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), fell 3.4 percent in June compared to June 2022 (-3.7percent for international operations). For the half year, demand slid 8.1 percent compared to the January-June period of 2022 (-8.7 percent for international operations). However, demand in June was only 2.4percent below June 2019 levels (pre-pandemic).

Capacity, as measured by available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), rose 9.7 percent compared to June 2022, which was a slower rate compared to the double-digit growth recorded between March and May.

Capacity for the first half of 2023 was up 9.9 percent compared to a year ago. Capacity is now 3.7 percent above June 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels.

Key factors influencing air cargo demand include:

Global cross-border trade decreased by 2.4 percent year-over-year in May, reflecting the cooling demand environment and challenging macroeconomic conditions.

The difference between the annual growth rates of air cargo and the global goods trade narrowed to -2.6 percentage points in May, representing the smallest gap since January 2022. However, the gap still suggests that air cargo continues to suffer more than container cargo from the slowdown in global trade.

In June, both manufacturing output Purchasing Managers Index or PMI (49.2) and new export orders PMI (47.1) were below the critical threshold represented by the 50 mark, indicating a decline in global manufacturing production and exports.

“We remain hopeful that the difficult trading conditions for air cargo will moderate as inflation eases in major economies. This, in turn, could encourage the central banks to loosen the money supply, which could stimulate greater economic activity,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general said.

June regional performance

African airlines posted a 2.8 percent decrease in demand compared to June 2022. This was a decline in performance compared to the previous month (-1.9 percent). Capacity in June was down 3.7 percent compared to the same month in 2022. For the first half of the year, cargo demand slowed by 4.4 percent while capacity climbed 1.6 percent.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes decrease by 3.6 percent in June 2023 compared to the same month in 2022. This was also a decline compared to May (-2.5 percent), mainly owing to weak demand on within-Asia markets, although the Asia-North America trade lane saw improved performance.

Available capacity in the region increased by 24.4 percent compared to June 2022. Looking at the first half of 2023, cargo demand was down 6.5 percent versus the year-ago period against a 27.0 percent rise in capacity.

Read also: Why Nigeria’s export cargo face rejection in foreign markets

European carriers experienced a 2.8 percent decrease in cargo volumes in June 2023, compared to the same month in 2022. This was an improvement in performance compared to May (-6.6 percent), in part due to the aforementioned Europe-North America performance. Capacity increased 4.4 percent compared to June 2022. Cargo demand was down 10.2 percent for the first six months of 2023 compared to last year, as the half-year capacity rose 2.5 percent.

Middle Eastern carriers posted a 0.5 percent increase in cargo volumes in June 2023 versus a year ago. This was a strong turnaround from the 2.9 percent year-over-year decline registered in May.

Capacity rose 11.1 percent for the month. Both Middle East-Asia and Middle East-Europe route areas saw annual growth. For the first half of the year, cargo demand was down 5.6 percent compared to a year ago, with an 11.2 percent hike in capacity.