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WorldACD Weekly Air Cargo Trends – week 2

Volumes bounce back after New Year slowdown

Global air cargo tonnages have bounced back in the second week of 2024 following their typical slowdown in the second half of December and the first week of January, according to the latest figures from WorldACD Market Data, including double-digit percentage increases in demand to Europe from Asia Pacific and from Middle East & South Asia in the last two weeks that may reflect some modal shift to air due to disruptions to shipping in the Red Sea.

Weekly analysis

Preliminary figures for week 2 (8 to 14 January) indicate that global air cargo tonnages rose +24% compared with the previous week, based on the more than 400,000 weekly transactions covered by WorldACD’s data, after falling by around -30% in the second half of last month and by around -3% in week 1, while average worldwide rates dropped again slightly in week 2 after falling by around -2% in the first week of 2024.

These patterns are broadly similar to those of previous years, although that +24% tonnage rebound in week 2 was stronger than in the equivalent week last year (+19%).

Expanding the comparison period to two weeks, total combined tonnages for weeks 1 and 2 this year were down by -7%, globally, compared with the preceding two weeks (2Wo2W), and average yields fell by -3%, with capacity down -3% – also familiar patterns for this time of year.

There were 2Wo2W tonnage declines from most of the main origin regions, including Europe (-15%), Central & South America (-9%), Asia Pacific (-7%), Africa (-4%), and ex-North America (-1%), with only Middle East & South Asia (+2%) in positive territory. Many of the major intercontinental lanes saw significant declines, 2Wo2W, including double-digit percentage drops ex-Europe to Central & South America (-26%), Africa (-24%), North America (-16%), and to Asia Pacific (-12%). But it was a different picture for tonnages to Europe from Asia Pacific and from Middle East & South Asia, which recorded increases of +12% and +17%, respectively. In the equivalent two-week period at the start of 2023, tonnages to Europe from Asia Pacific and from Middle East & South Asia also rose, on a 2Wo2W basis, but less sharply: by +4% and +13%, respectively.

There have been anecdotal reports in recent days of cargo owners switching some cargo from sea to air because of longer ocean voyages caused by the disruptions in the Red Sea. Although it’s unclear yet to what extent this has contributed to air cargo demand, those elevated tonnage figures to Europe from Asia Pacific and from Middle East & South Asia likely reflect some contribution from modal shift on these lanes from sea to air and to sea-air.

In contrast to the higher tonnages ex-Asia Pacific to Europe, demand ex-Asia Pacific to other markets declined, on a 2Wo2W basis, including a -18% drop to Middle East & South Asia and a -9% fall to North America, while intra-Asia Pacific tonnages also dropped sharply (-12%).

But the uplift in chargeable weight to Europe from Asia Pacific and from Middle East & South Asia has not yet brought any corresponding increase in average prices, with rates to Europe from Asia Pacific and from Middle East & South Asia down by -6% and -2%, respectively, on a 2Wo2W basis. There were also average rate decreases ex-Asia Pacific to North America (-9%) and to Middle East & South Asia (-4%), while intra-Asia Pacific average prices were flat.

Year-on-Year perspective

Year on year (YoY), demand remains up slightly (+2%) globally. And continuing a positive trend ex-Asia Pacific observed in the final quarter of 2023, demand ex-Asia Pacific in the first two weeks of this year is up +6% compared with this time last year, despite Lunar New Year (LNY) in 2024 coming later (10 February) than last year (22 January) – an improvement this year that is, therefore, unlikely to be a pre-LNY surge.

Elsewhere, tonnages for the first two weeks of this year are up, YoY, ex-Middle East & South Asia (+17%), ex-Africa (+9%) and ex-Central & South America (+3%), but they remain down ex-North America (-8%) and ex-Europe (-5%).

On the pricing side, worldwide average rates are currently -24% below their levels this time last year, at an average of US$2.34 per kilo in week 2, although they remain significantly above pre-Covid levels (+31% compared to January 2019).

For more details, please refer to the attached WorldACD weekly report.

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