Air cargo demand from Asia Pacific origin points partially rebounded in week 19 from the dip in tonnages around Labour Day holidays and Japan’s Golden Week in the first few days of May, although tonnages from some origin regions have yet to bounce back and even Asia Pacific’s partial rebound is weaker than it was in the equivalent week last year. However, global and Asia Pacific tonnages remain higher this year overall.

According to the latest weekly figures and analysis from WorldACD Market Data, total worldwide tonnages were flat in week 19 (6 to 12 May), after dropping by -9% the previous week because of public holidays in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central & South America (CSA). The equivalent week last year saw a +9% tonnage rebound following a -9% decline the previous week, based on the more than 450,000 weekly transactions covered by WorldACD’s data.

Despite the tonnage volatility in recent weeks, due to Easter and Eid holidays, Mother’s Day in various countries, and Labour Day holidays, average worldwide rates have remained relatively stable in recent weeks, settling in week 19 at US$2.49 a kilo, which is around +2% higher than the same week last year and significantly above pre-Covid levels (+41% compared to May 2019).

Examining the demand patterns of the main global regions in weeks 18 and 19 reveals a mixed picture. After tonnages from Asia Pacific origins fell by -13% in week 18, they partially bounced back in week 19 (+8%). That contrasts somewhat with the behavior of the Asia Pacific market in weeks 18 and 19 last year, when tonnages dropped in week 18 by around -16%, WoW, but recovered almost completely the following week (+18%, WoW). One of the differences is the dynamics of the market in China, where tonnages last year fell by -18% in week 18 but almost fully recovered the following week (+19%, WoW). This year, in a market buoyed by large volumes of e-commerce goods, tonnages ex-China dropped by a more-modest -8% in week 18 but saw a smaller recovery in week 19 (+2%, WoW). Nevertheless, those tonnages this year ex-China are significantly higher than last year (+14%, YoY, in week 19).

Meanwhile, tonnages from North America and from Middle East & South Asia (MESA) origins each made a very small recovery (+1%), week on week (WoW), in week 19 this year, after recording a modest WoW drop ex-North America (-3%) and slight growth (+1%) ex-MESA in week 18, respectively. But tonnages from Africa (-1%) and Europe (-4%) saw further minor declines, while those from CSA dropped a further -21% after tonnages had spiked in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day in various countries on 12 May, related to flower shipments.

2Wo2W comparisons

Reflecting the declines in tonnages around Labour Day holidays, the combined global tonnages of weeks 18 and 19 are down by (-7%) compared with the previous two weeks (a 2Wo2W comparison), although they are up +9%, year on year (YoY). MESA (+8%) was the only origin region to record 2Wo2W increases in tonnages, but tonnages were up, YoY, from all the main origin regions except CSA (-5%), led by MESA (+20%) and Asia Pacific (+17%), with Africa (+5%), Europe (+3%) and North America (+3%) recording smaller YoY gains.

On the pricing side, on a two-week combined basis, the combined global rates levels in weeks 18 and 19 were up slightly, on both a 2Wo2W (+1%) and YoY (+3%) basis. On a YoY basis, rates from origin region MESA remain highly elevated (+44%) compared with this time last year, linked to strong demand developments combined with supply issues caused by disruptions to container shipping, and rates from Asia Pacific origin points remain significantly up (+12%), YoY. But average rates from Europe (-22%) and North America (-13%), remain well below last year’s levels.