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Not much to smile about in air freight, if you're not carrying e-commerce



The e-commerce market out of southern China remains strong in air cargo – but that appears to be the only joy on the horizon for carriers.


Indices this week show global demand is still weak, and rates going nowhere.


TAC Index showed a slight decline in rates, after a mild bounce a week earlier, while the overall Baltic Air Freight Index dropped 2.4% week on week.


While passenger/belly capacity may be up, freighter capacity is expected to slide, with airlines using this dull period to conduct heavy maintenance checks on older freighters. TAC Index added that there were also fewer conversions coming to the market.


WorldACD said today global tonnages had stayed flat, while rates slid slightly. Tonnages in the week to 25 June were down 2%, as were rates. Over a two-week period, tonnage was stable, capacity was up 1% and rates fell 1%. It added that, regionally, there had been some significant price changes.


In a two-week versus two-week period, rates out of the Middle East and South Asia to Asia Pacific fell a hefty 17%, ex-North America to Asia Pacific fell 7% and transatlantic westbound fell 5%, despite volume rises on all three lanes, said WorldACD.


TAC Index found that rates out of Hong Kong rose 2.1%, driven by e-commerce volumes to Europe and North America. Out of Shanghai, however, rates fell marginally, in particular to North America. Rates out of Frankfurt to North America also slipped, although to China, they edged up. Chicago’s export tradelanes saw a 12% rate fall, with decreases on all major routes.


Meanwhile, more anecdotally, Eddy Liu, SVP cargo for China Airlines, noted that despite much talk of sourcing shifts, there was “still no significant export demand from neighbouring South-east Asian countries”.


In terms of possible growth drivers for air cargo on the horizon, dockworker union ILWU Canada plans a strike at the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver tomorrow, although it is not yet clear how long it will continue, or what impact it will have. But it could perhaps give air cargo a little filip.


In addition, more freighter capacity is said to be leaving the market – albeit perhaps temporarily – as Western Global Airlines is thought to be parking its fleet as it decides how to navigate its credit crisis. But with Amazon and FedEx among its top customers – both of which are pulling capacity – that may have very little impact on the market in general.


While some industry observers point to the fact that rates, while nearly 40% lower than last year, are still well above pre-pandemic levels, airlines have been quick to point out that costs have been rising fast.

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