Global Air Cargo Sees September Surge: Tonnages Up 3%, Rates Skyrocket 5%

Published: Monday, October 9, 2023

Global air cargo tonnages and average rates have risen in September when comparing with August, with full-month tonnages rising almost +3%, and rates at the end of September around +5% higher than at the start of the month, according to the latest figures from WorldACD Market Data.

The figures reflect a slight post-summer seasonal strengthening of the market, which appeared to have stabilized in recent months following a year and a half of persistent decline – or adjustment back towards pre-Covid patterns of supply and demand. Preliminary figures for September as a whole indicate that tonnages were down, year on year (YoY), by -2% – the smallest YoY monthly decline this year.

Weekly analysis

Figures for week 39 (25 September to 1 October) show a slight drop of -1% in tonnages, compared with the previous week, while rates increased by +2%, based on the more than 400,000 weekly transactions covered by WorldACD’s data. That slight drop in tonnages followed after three consecutive weeks of growth of, respectively, +3%, +4% and +1%.

Comparing weeks 38 and 39 with the preceding two weeks (2Wo2W), overall tonnages increased by +3% versus their combined total in weeks 36 and 37, while worldwide rates went up by +3% and capacity remained stable.At a regional level, increases in tonnages (2Wo2W) were recorded most strongly on flows ex-North America to Central & South America (+15%), between Central & South America and Europe (northbound +9%, southbound +8%), between Europe and North America (+6% for both directions), ex-Middle East & South Asia to Asia Pacific (+11%),  ex-Europe to Middle East & South Asia (+9%) and ex-Asia Pacific to Europe (+7%) – ahead of China’s National Day Golden Week holiday from 1-6 October. A slight weakening was recorded on the flows ex-North America to Asia Pacific (-2%), ex-Central & South America to North America (-2%) and ex-Europe to Asia Pacific (-1%).

On the pricing side, average global rates increased by +3% on a 2Wo2W basis, with the most notable rises ex-Middle East & South Asia to Asia Pacific (+12%), and ex-Asia Pacific to Europe (+7%). The strongest drop was recorded on the lane ex-North America to Asia Pacific (-4%).

Year-on-Year perspective

Comparing the overall global market with this time last year, chargeable weight in weeks 38 and 39 was down -2% compared with the equivalent period last year (YoY), with the most-notable change on an origin region level being a +7% rise ex-Asia Pacific. But, similar to previous reports, there were significant decreases in tonnages ex-North America (-15%) and ex-Europe (-9%). Also, tonnages were down for origin Africa (-4%), while origins Central & South America (+3%) and Middle East & South Asia (+1%) were up.

Overall capacity has increased by +10% compared with last year, as passenger air services continue to return to the market, with capacity ex-Asia Pacific up by a noteworthy +30%. Other significant YoY capacity increases can be observed ex-Middle East & South Asia (+10%), ex-North America (+9%), ex-Europe (+7%) and ex-Africa (+7%), while a drop was recorded ex-Central & South America (-5%).

Worldwide average rates are currently -31% below their levels this time last year, at an average of US$2.37 per kilo in week 39, although they remain significantly above pre-Covid levels (+38% compared to September 2019).