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WorldACD Weekly Air Cargo Trends – week 21

Global rates stabilize above last year’s levels

Global air cargo rates have been gradually increasing since the beginning of March 2024, when they were still more than 10% below last year’s levels. At the start of this month, average prices exceeded 2023 levels for the first time this year, rising by +2%. Since then rates have stabilized, with a slight further increase in week 21 (20 to 26 May) to +4% year on year (YoY).

More detailed analysis shows that this increase in the worldwide average rate is partly explained by the growing volumes on the long haul markets from Asia Pacific, where rates are relatively high. If we adjust for volume effects, the average worldwide rate in week 20 and 21 is still -2% below the level of last year.

According to the latest weekly figures and analysis from WorldACD Market Data, worldwide tonnages decreased slightly by -2% in week 21 compared to the previous week, after a rebound in weeks 19 and 20 (6 to 19 May) of +5% combined. In turn, that rebound followed a drop of -8% at the start of May around the Labour Day holidays. Tonnages are up by +9%, YoY for the last two weeks, globally, although that figure is inflated by strong demand from Asia Pacific (+16%) and Middle East & South Asia (+14%) origins.

Average global rates remain more or less stable, rising just three cents to US$2.50 per kilo in week 21 – which is up, YoY, by around +4% and significantly above pre-Covid levels (+41% compared to May 2019). Also on a two-week-on-two-week (2Wo2W) basis, average global and regional rates are relatively stable. But compared with 2023, average rates from Middle East & South Asia (MESA) are highly elevated (+48%). And to destinations in Europe, average rates from MESA origins remain more than double (+120%) their level this time last year, as they have for the past two months, based on the more than 450,000 weekly transactions covered by WorldACD’s data.

Capacity has remained stable at a global level throughout the month of May, while being significantly up (+7%) for the last two weeks, compared to the same period last year. Central & South America (CSA) saw a substantial decrease (-17%) in capacity, as carriers withdrew the space they had added to carry Mother’s Day (12 May) flower shipments.

Fresh analysis by WorldACD indicates that tonnages from MESA to Europe in the last two weeks (weeks 20 and 21, 13 to 26 May) are up, YoY, by +26%, with Dubai at the top of the list in terms of origin growth points (+97%) – although tonnages on Dubai-Europe routes are no longer at the extreme levels (+228%) seen in the first half of March. Those Dubai tonnages to Europe remain inflated by strong sea-air cargo demand caused by the disruptions to container shipping in the Red Sea. But tonnages from India (+16%) and Sri Lanka (+30%) are also significantly up, YoY, for the last two weeks combined.

Post Labour Day and Golden Week recovery

When looking at the performance of the last two weeks compared to the two weeks before (2Wo2W), global tonnages increased by +3%. Strong differences are apparent between origin regions. When looking at Asia Pacific (+8%), half of the increase can be explained by the occurrence of Golden Week in Japan at the beginning of May, which boosted all flows ex-Asia Pacific as well as intra-Asia Pacific. And for CSA the 2Wo2W decrease of -12% during this period can be almost fully (90%) explained by the decline in demand for flowers related to Mother’s Day, which mainly impacted the flow ex-CSA to North America (-19% in tonnages, -9% in average rates).

The remaining positive trend in tonnages for Asia Pacific and for the other origin regions (except CSA and North America) is largely explained by the recovery from Labour Day at the start of May. This holds especially for origin Europe, where tonnages went up by +4% (2Wo2W), despite showing a -6% WoW decrease related to the Pentecost holiday on 18-19 May.

YoY double-digit growth in Asia Pacific and MESA continues

As highlighted earlier, compared to the previous year, the strongest YoY growth for the last two weeks occurred ex-Asia Pacific (+16%) and ex-MESA (+14%). When taking a closer look, all destination regions from Asia Pacific show double-digit growth figures compared to the same two weeks of last year, most notably +30% to MESA, followed by Africa (+26%), CSA (+24%), Europe (+18%), North America (+16%) and intra-Asia Pacific (+11%). For origin MESA, the most significant growth is on routes into Europe (+26%) and into North America (+16%).

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

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