OCTOBER marked the third consecutive month of stronger year-on-year air cargo demand, according to the latest market data from the International Air Transport association.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres, increased by 3.8% compared with October 2022. For international operations, the demand lagged slightly at 3.5%.

Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres, was up 13.1% compared with October 2022 (11.1% for international operations).

IATA said this was largely related to the growth in belly capacity. International belly capacity, for example, rose 30.5% year-on-year on the strength of passenger markets.

IATA noted several factors in the operating environment last month, including slower economic activities and inflation in major advanced economies.

It said global trade reversed its downward trajectory and stabilised in September. Although below its 2022 peak, global cross-border trade is more than 5% above pre-pandemic levels.

And, after a continuous 17-month decline, cargo yields ticked-up in September and continued into October with a 2.6% month-on-month gain, remaining well-above pre-pandemic levels.

“Demand for air cargo was up 3.8% in October,” IATA director general Willie Walsh said.

“That marks three consecutive months of year-on-year growth, placing air cargo on course to end 2023 on a much stronger footing than it began the year,” he said.

“Recovering demand, slightly stronger yields and the uptick in trade are all good news. But with demand still 2.4% below pre-pandemic levels, and much uncertainty remaining over the trajectory of the global economy, optimism must be balanced with caution.

“Nonetheless, a continued strong peak year-end season will certainly help the sector to manage through whatever turns the global economy might take in 2024.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes increase by 7.6% in October 2023 compared with the same month in 2022. This performance was close to par with the previous month (+7.7%).

Carriers in the region benefited from ongoing growth in international cargo tonne-kilometres on three major trade lanes: Africa-Asia, Middle East-Asia, and Europe-Asia.

Available capacity for the region’s airlines increased by 30.0% compared to October 2022 as more belly capacity came online from the passenger side of the business.

North American carriers had the weakest performance in October with a 1.8% decrease year-on-year in cargo volumes. This was a slight improvement in performance compared to September (-2.2%). Capacity increased by 2.4% compared to October 2022.

European carriers saw air cargo volumes increase by 1% in October compared with the same month in 2022. This was a stronger performance than in September (-1.5%). Capacity increased 7% in October 2023 compared to 2022.

Middle Eastern carriers had the strongest performance in October 2023, with a 10.9% year-on-year increase in cargo volumes. This was a significant improvement from the previous month’s performance (+2.5%). Capacity increased 15% compared to October 2022.

Latin American carriers experienced a 4% increase in cargo volumes compared with October 2022, a notable increase compared to the previous month’s gain (+2.3%). Capacity in October was up 8.3% compared to the same month in 2022.

And African airlines saw air cargo volumes increase by 2.9% in October 2023, much improved compared to September’s performance (-0.1%). Capacity was 9.8% above October 2022 levels.