Global Air Cargo Tonnages Show Stability in October 2023, but Recovery Remains Elusive


Global air cargo tonnages exhibited stability in October 2023, with only a marginal 1% decrease compared to the same period last year, according to preliminary data released by WorldACD Market Data. This minor dip is a significant improvement from earlier in the year when the year-on-year decline was as high as 10% in the first quarter, 6% in the second quarter, and 3% in the third quarter.

Nonetheless, the decrease in October should be viewed as stabilization rather than a full recovery, considering that in October 2022, tonnages had already experienced a substantial 13% decline compared to the previous year, signaling a lackluster peak season the previous winter.

To provide context, the full-year tonnage for 2022 was approximately 6% lower than the near-record figures for 2021 but slightly above 2016 levels, with expectations of a significant drop in 2023, around 5% below last year’s figures.

Weekly Analysis

Preliminary figures for week 43 (October 23-29, 2023) reveal a 1% decrease in tonnages and a 1% increase in global average rates compared to the previous week, based on data covering over 400,000 weekly transactions collected by WorldACD. This decrease in tonnages during the last full week of October mirrors the pattern seen in the previous year, marked by a mid-month recovery in tonnages following a sharp drop in the first full week of October. This drop coincided with China’s Golden Week holiday break.

Comparing weeks 42 and 43 in 2023 with the preceding two weeks (2Wo2W), overall tonnages and worldwide rates increased by 3%, while capacity rose by 1% compared to the combined total in weeks 40 and 41.

Regionally, the most significant increases in tonnages (2Wo2W) were observed on flows departing from Africa to Europe (14%), Asia Pacific to North America (9%), Middle East & South Asia (8%), Europe (7%), and intra-Asia Pacific (7%). Notable increases were also recorded for flows departing from Europe to Asia Pacific (7%), North America to Central & South America (5%), and Central & South America to Europe (5%). On the flip side, the most substantial percentage decreases occurred in flows departing from Europe to the Middle East & South Asia (6%), North America to Europe (5%), and North America to Asia Pacific (4%).

Regarding pricing, there were small to modest rate increases on most regional flows on a 2Wo2W basis, particularly on flows from Europe to North America (6%), Asia Pacific to North America (4%), and Middle East & South Asia (4%), as well as flows between Middle East & South Asia and Asia Pacific (4%) and from Central & South America to Europe (4%). Slight decreases were recorded on flows from Europe to Central & South America (3%) and Europe to Asia Pacific (1%).

Year-on-Year Perspective

Comparing the global market with the same period last year, chargeable weight in weeks 42 and 43 was down by 2%, with notable changes observed on an origin region level, including an 8% rise departing from the Middle East & South Asia and a 6% increase from Central & South America and Africa. Tonnages were also up from Asia Pacific (4%). However, there were significant declines in tonnages from North America (-13%) and Europe (-11%).

Overall capacity has increased by 15% compared to the previous year, as passenger air services continue to return to the market, with a noteworthy 31% increase in capacity from Asia Pacific. Other significant year-on-year capacity increases are observed departing from Europe (18%), the Middle East & South Asia (13%), Africa (12%), and North America (10%), while a decrease was recorded departing from Central & South America (-3%).

Worldwide average rates currently stand at $2.40 per kilogram in week 43, a 28% decline from the same period last year. Nevertheless, they remain significantly higher than pre-Covid levels, with a 36% increase compared to October 2019.

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Devender was born in the year when the Beatles Group was formed. He holds two master’s degrees in English Literature and Public Administration. He also has an Honors degree in English Literature and a post-graduate diploma in Corporate Communications and Public Relations. He was closely associated with the Indian State Transport Undertakings and Ministry of Transport in his role as Corporate Communications and PR specialist for over two decades handling domestic and international organizations. He ventured into business forming his own Media House, Profiles Media Network Private Limited which is now a twenty years old company. Excelling as an editor, Marketing, PR, Anchor, and Advertising specialist, he is now expertly navigating the world of social media. A widely traveled professional internationally, Devender has a deep understanding of the Air Cargo, Cargo Business, Cargo Airports, Freighters and Cargo Industry at large.