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Air Cargo Industry: Four Months of Double-Digit Growth 

The International Air Transport Association released data for March 2024 for global air cargo markets, showing strong annual growth and demand.  


The total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), increased by 10.3% compared to March 2023. This marks the fourth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth, indicating a sustained upward trend in the air cargo industry. Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), also increased by 7.3% compared to March 2023, reflecting the industry's ability to meet the growing demand.  


IATA's Director General Willie Walsh said, "Air cargo demand grew by 10.3% over the previous March. This contributed to a strong first quarter performance, which slightly exceeded even the exceptionally strong 2021 first quarter performance during the COVID crisis. With global cross-border trade and industrial production continuing to show a moderate upward trend, 2024 is shaping up to be a solid year for air cargo."  


There are several factors in the operating environment that must be noted:  


  • Global cross-border trade increased by 1.2% in February. 

  • Global industrial production increased by 1.6% in February.  

  • In March, the manufacturing output PMI (Purchasing Manager's Index) rose to 51.9%, and new export orders PMI also rose to 49.5, indicating expansion.  


Performance by Region: 


Carriers from the Asia-Pacific region witnessed a remarkable 14.3% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March. Demand for the Asia-Europe route surged by 2.7 ppt to 17.0%, and the Asia market grew by 6.7 ppt to 11.8%. 


Carriers in North America saw 0.9% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo, the lowest among all regions. Demand for the North America–Europe route grew by 2.9%, while Asia–North America grew by 4.7% year-on-year. However, March capacity decreased by -1.9% year-on-year. 


European carriers saw 10.0% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March. Intra-European air cargo rose by 24.7%, and demand for Europe–Middle East routes grew by 38.3% year-on-year. March capacity increased 8.0% year-on-year. 


Middle Eastern carriers experienced 19.9% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March, the most substantial of all regions. The Middle East–Europe market was the strongest performing, with 38.3% growth, ahead of Middle East-Asia, which grew by 19.6% year-on-year, while capacity increased by 10.6% year-on-year. 


Latin American carriers saw 9.2% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in March, while capacity increased 7.0% year-on-year. 


Airlines in Africa saw 14.2% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo, and demand on the Africa–Asia market increased to 22.9%; however, this was a 19.8 ppt decrease compared to February's performance and the most significant contraction across the major routes. March capacity increased by 17.3% year-on-year.   


Are you a pilot looking for a career path in the air cargo industry? Learn more about the role of cargo pilots and airline openings here


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