Tonne-kilometers of air freight

What you should know about this indicator

Air freight is the volume of freight, express, and diplomatic bags carried on each flight stage (operation of an aircraft from takeoff to its next landing), measured in metric tons times kilometers traveled.

Limitations and exceptions: The air transport data represent the total (international and domestic) scheduled traffic carried by the air carriers registered in a country. Countries submit air transport data to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on the basis of standard instructions and definitions issued by ICAO. In many cases, however, the data include estimates by ICAO for nonreporting carriers. Where possible, these estimates are based on previous submissions supplemented by information published by the air carriers, such as flight schedules.

The data cover the air traffic carried on scheduled services, but changes in air transport regulations in Europe have made it more difficult to classify traffic as scheduled or nonscheduled. Thus recent increases shown for some European countries may be due to changes in the classification of air traffic rather than actual growth. In the case of multinational air carriers owned by partner States, traffic within each partner State is shown separately as domestic and all other traffic as international.

"Foreign" cabotage traffic (i.e. traffic carried between city-pairs in a State other than the one where the reporting carrier has its principal place of business) is shown as international traffic.

A technical stop does not result in any flight stage being classified differently than would have been the case had the technical stop not been made. For countries with few air carriers or only one, the addition or discontinuation of a home-based air carrier may cause significant changes in air traffic.

Data for transport sectors are not always internationally comparable. Unlike for demographic statistics, national income accounts, and international trade data, the collection of infrastructure data has not been "internationalized."

Statistical concept and methodology: For statistical uses, departures are equal to the number of landings made or flight stages flown. A flight stage is the operation of an aircraft from take-off to its next landing. A flight stage is classified as either international or domestic. International flight stage is one or both terminals in the territory of a State, other than the State in which the air carrier has its principal place of business.

Domestic flight stage is not classifiable as international. Domestic flight stages include all flight stages flown between points within the domestic boundaries of a State by an air carrier whose principal place of business is in that State. Flight stages between a State and territories belonging to it, as well as any flight stages between two such territories, should be classified as domestic. This applies even though a stage may cross international waters or over the territory of another State.

Freight tonne-kilometres performed measures a metric tonne of freight carried one kilometre. Freight tonne-kilometres equal the sum of the products obtained by multiplying the number of tonnes of freight, express, diplomatic bags carried on each flight stage by the stage distance. For ICAO statistical purposes freight includes express and diplomatic bags but not passenger baggage.

Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data
Last updated
May 20, 2024
Next expected update
May 2025
Date range
million ton-km

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

The World Development Indicators (WDI) is the primary World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially-recognized international sources. It presents the most current and accurate global development data available, and includes national, regional and global estimates.

Retrieved on
May 20, 2024
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
World Bank's World Development Indicators (WDI).

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“Data Page: Tonne-kilometers of air freight”. Our World in Data (2024). Data adapted from International Civil Aviation Organization (via World Bank). Retrieved from [online resource]
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Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data

Full citation

Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data. “Tonne-kilometers of air freight” [dataset]. International Civil Aviation Organization (via World Bank), “World Development Indicators” [original data]. Retrieved July 24, 2024 from