Date: 10.07.2024

Air Cargo Demand Grows Strongly in Q2 2024 – and will continue for the rest of the year

Robust growth in global air cargo markets for April 2024 marks a strong start to the second quarter, with airfreight rates on key trades out of Asia remaining “firm” in June, despite the market entering the traditional quieter summer period or ‘slack season’. Quite simply there isn’t one.

Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), rose in double-digits compared to April 2023. This marks the fifth consecutive month of double-digit annual growth. Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), grew by 7.1% compared to April 2023, with international capacity up by 10.2%.

Despite economic uncertainties, air cargo demand remains strong, with the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for global manufacturing output and new export orders turning positive in April, indicating growth. This is the first time in two years that new export orders have been risen, suggesting a robust outlook for air cargo for the rest of the year and likely beyond.

Key economic factors

  • April PMIs for global manufacturing output and new export orders were 51.5 and 50.5, respectively
  • Industrial production increased by 1.6% year-on-year in March
  • Inflation remained stable in major economies: US (3.4%), EU (2.6%), Japan (2.5%), and China (0.2%)

Regional Performance in April

  • Asia-Pacific – Demand grew by 14.0% year-on-year
  • North America – Demand increased by 7.0% year-on-year
  • Europe – Demand rose by 12.7% year-on-year
  • Middle East – Demand increased by 9.4% year-on-year
  • Latin America – Demand grew by 11.7% year-on-year
  • Africa – Demand rose by 10.6% year-on-year

That’s a lot of stats but we are demonstrating the consistent demand and growth in what should be a soft period. eCommerce is a huge contributor to the above absorbing any excess capacity on scheduled carriers and adding hundreds of dedicated charters a week into the market. This has an impact on general air cargo and through supply and demand dynamics pushes the prices up, or certainly does not allow them to fall.

Spot rate index round-up
The Baltic Exchange Airfreight Index (BAI) shows that rates from Hong Kong to both Europe and North America remained up on a year ago and also increased slightly compared with May levels.

From Hong Kong to North America, the average spot rate in June was up nearly 17% compared with a year earlier, while Hong Kong to Europe, rates in June increased over 22% year on year.

The market has remained surprisingly strong through what is normally a low season in the year, as extra belly-hold capacity comes on stream for the summer, reflecting continuing robust eCommerce activity.

Rates are also significantly higher year on year out of some other big markets in Asia, notably from India and Vietnam and particularly on lanes to Europe.

Generally we are seeing huge demand on most inbound lanes into Europe on air freight with congestion at global hubs still prevalent.

Unlike the ocean freight theory that the market is busy due to restocking (and of course the Red Sea/Suez Canal effective closure) this idea does not make sense for air freight and time critical cargo. It’s simply a case of higher demand and not enough capacity so the signs are for a remarkably busy traditional peak season from September through to Chinese New Year.

Let us get prepared for this and discuss your requirements for known air freight, or possible/expected delayed ‘distressed’ ocean freight, that will need to be sped up in the supply chain.

For urgent, valuable and sensitive shipments we have a range of airfreight, charter, sea/air and land-bridge solutions, with block space agreements (BSA) and capacity purchase agreements (CPA) that protect space and capacity on the busiest routes.

Regardless of your cargo type, size and requirements, we have extremely competitive rate and service combinations, to meet every deadline and budget. Please speak to us. With visibility and planning we will always deliver your product when required.

EMAIL Elliot Carlile, Operations Director, for insights, prices and advice.