IATA: Signs of improvement for air cargo in February

Air cargo demand showed positive signs in February with a much reduced year-on-year decline, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports.

Demand measured in cargo tonne kilometres (CTK) was down 7.5% compared to February 2022 compared to year-on-year declines in December of 14.9% and 15.3% in January.

February was 2.9% above pre-pandemic levels in 2019 making it the first month in 8 months to surpass pre-pandemic levels.

Capacity measured in available CTK was up 8.6% and belly capacity increased by 57% due to returning passenger traffic, putting at 75.1% of pre-pandemic levels.

The global export order component of the manufacturing PMI increased in February with China’s PMI passing the critical 50-mark, indicating that demand for manufactured goods is increasing.

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA, says, “The story of air cargo in February is one of slowing declines. Year-on-year demand fell by 7.5%. That’s half the rate of decline experienced in January. This shifting of gears was sufficient to boost the overall industry into positive territory (+2.9%) compared to pre-pandemic levels. An optimistic eye could see the start of an improvement trend that leads to market stabilisation and a return to more normal demand patterns after dramatic ups-and-downs in recent years.”

In Asia-Pacific, airlines registered a 6% decrease in February compared to 19% in January due to China’s reopening, which saw restrictions lifted and economic activity resuming.

North America posted a solid improvement with a decline of 3.2% compared to 8.7% in January.

Europe remained the weakest performer due to being worst affected by the war in Ukraine, down 15.3% in February but this was an improvement compared to January when it was down 20.4%.

The Middle East was down 8.1% in February compared to 11.8% in January.

Latin America decreased by 2.7% compared to an increase of 4.6% seen in January.

African airlines saw a fall of 3.4% compared to 9.5% in January and one notable result was Africa to Asia routes increasing 39.5% in February year-on-year.