The global air cargo market’s performance in August offered a glimmer of hope for the upcoming peak season, according to CLIVE Data Services.

Volumes were down 5% compared to August 2021 and 4% on 2019, which was better than the year-on-year declines of 8% and 9% seen in June and July.

Despite staff shortages continuing to cause transportation and supply chain issues, capacity was up 7% in August thanks to the surge in international travel in the northern hemisphere, putting capacity 9% below 2019.

The dynamic load factor dropped 7 percentage points compared to 2021 and 2 percentage points to 2019, to 58%, similar to the past 3 months.

Jet fuel price cuts meant spot rates averaged $3.61 per kg, the lowest since September last year, continuing the gradual transition back to pre-pandemic levels.

CLIVE says they were still 4% above 2021 and 113% higher than 2019 but they were 156% higher than 2019 at the start of the year.

Niall van de Wouw, Chief Airfreight Officer of Xeneta, which owns CLIVE, says the August data could be an early signal of volumes and rates starting to pick up again.

He says, “In many respects, this latest data is quite remarkable relative to the two previous months because volumes in August – traditionally the quietest summer month due to the holiday season – levelled out and out-performed June and July when compared to last year’s volumes.”

Demand from Europe to North America was boosted by the strong dollar, with the westbound load factor above average and the rates stabilising.

The peak season is expected to be muted but the performance in August could signal a better-than-expected end of the year.

Van de Wouw says, “Now, with a slowdown in global economies expected in the near term, airlines are reporting reductions in their winter schedules, and we are likely to see continued capacity constraints on popular air cargo trade lanes, such as outbound Asia to Europe and North America, and Europe to North America. If the fall in demand is easing, however, as August indicates, that capacity shift could see us return to a seller’s market again and load factors return to the mid 70% to 80% range.”