Global air cargo demand in April was up 12 per cent compared to the same month in 2019, as it continued to outperform pre-Covid levels.

    That’s according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which also noted a 7.8 per cent increase in demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), compared to March 2021. Seasonally adjusted demand is now five per cent higher than the pre-crisis August 2018 peak, the organisation said.

    The strong performance was led by North American carriers, which contributed 7.5 percentage points to the 12 per cent growth rate in April. Airlines in all other regions except for Latin America also supported the growth, IATA said.

    Capacity remains 9.7 per cent below pre-Covid-19 levels (April 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft. Airlines continue to use dedicated freighters to plug the lack of available belly capacity, IATA noted.

    International capacity from dedicated freighters rose 26.2 per cent in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, while belly-cargo capacity dropped by 38.5 per cent.

    “Air cargo continues to be the good news story for the air transport sector,” said IATA’s director general Willie Walsh.

    “Demand is up 12 per cent on pre-crisis levels and yields are solid. Some regions are outperforming the global trend, most notably carriers in North America, the Middle East and Africa. Strong air cargo performance, however, is not universal. The recovery for carriers in the Latin American region, for example, is stalled.”

    IATA Apr 21 1
    Source: IATA. Click to enlarge.
    IATA Apr 21 2
    Source: IATA. Click to enlarge.
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    Source: IATA. Click to enlarge.

    IATA also noted that underlying economic conditions and favourable supply chain dynamics remained supportive for air cargo. Global trade rose 4.2 per cent in March.

    Competitiveness against sea shipping has improved, the organisation said. Air cargo rates have stabilised since reaching a peak in April 2020, while shipping container rates have remained relatively high in comparison. “Meanwhile, longer supplier delivery times as economic activity ramps up make the speed of air cargo an advantage by recovering some of the time lost in the production process,” IATA said.

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    International belly cargo and freighter capacity growth. Source: IATA. Click to enlarge.
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    Cargo load factors by region. Source: IATA. Click to enlarge.