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  April 11th, 2024 | Written by

Surging Demand: Air Freight Growth Defies Seasonal Trends

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Recent data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reveals a notable surge in air freight demand, with the Red Sea crisis and expanding consumer demand outside the US cited as key drivers. Despite the typical seasonal downturn between January and February, African and Middle Eastern markets experienced month-on-month growth, resulting in impressive annualized growth rates.

In February, overall demand for air freight, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres, increased by 11.9% year-on-year, marking the third consecutive month of double-digit growth. International demand saw even stronger growth at 12.4%, underscoring the buoyancy of global air freight markets.

Europe led the growth trajectory with a notable 15% increase, outpacing Asia Pacific and North America. Surprisingly, North America saw lower international traffic growth compared to domestic routes.

IATA Director General Willie Walsh highlighted the contrast in background trade growth, emphasizing air cargo’s resilience amidst political and economic uncertainties. Purchasing managers indexes also indicate a slow recovery in manufacturing activity and exports, further supporting the strong air freight demand.

The reasons behind this robustness are not entirely clear, but it suggests a recovery in consumer demand outside the US and a desire to quickly replenish inventories. The Red Sea crisis is also believed to be influencing market dynamics in the Middle East and Europe.

Despite the surge in demand, the impact on prices is unexpected due to rapidly growing capacity. Available cargo-tonne-kilometres surged by 13.4% year-on-year, driven by passenger jet belly capacity, while freighter cargo-tonne-kilometre growth remained relatively modest at 3.2%.