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Cargo markets continue to “move sideways” as IATA releases July data

Air freight, air cargo

Global air cargo demand continued to track at near pre-pandemic levels in July but was significantly below July 2021 performance, according to the latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The organisation said that global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), fell 9.7 per cent compared to July 2021 and was down 10.2 per cent specifically for international operations. Demand was down 3.5 per cent in the month compared to the same period in 2019.

Capacity was however 3.6 per cent above July 2021, and up 6.8 per cent for international operations – but was still 7.8 per cent below July 2019 levels.

Several factors in the operating environment impacted the results, according to IATA. New export orders – a leading indicator of cargo demand – decreased in all markets, except China which began a sharp upward trend in June. The war in Ukraine continued to impair cargo capacity used to serve Europe as several airlines based in Russia and Ukraine were key cargo players.

Additionally, global goods trade continued to recover in the second quarter and the additional easing of Covid-19 restrictions in China will further boost recovery in coming months, IATA noted. While maritime will be the main beneficiary of this, air cargo is also set to receive a boost.

“Air cargo is tracking at near 2019 levels although it has taken a step back compared to the extraordinary performance of 2020-2021,” commented IATA’s director general Willie Walsh. “Volatility resulting from supply chain constraints and evolving economic conditions has seen cargo markets essentially move sideways since April. July data shows us that air cargo continues to hold its own, but as is the case for almost all industries, we’ll need to carefully watch both economic and political developments over the coming months.”

Source: IATA. Click to enlarge
Air cargo market: 2022 vs 2019. Source: IATA. Click to enlarge

Asia Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes decrease by 9 per cent in July 2022 compared to the same month in 2021, according to IATA. This was a significant decrease over the 2.1 per cent decline in June. Airlines in the region continue to be impacted by the conflict in Ukraine, labour shortages, and lower levels of trade and manufacturing activity due to Omicron-related restrictions.

“The scale of the decrease indicates volatility in volumes, as pent-up demand from the last Omicron-related lockdowns in China should prevent such notable declines in volumes,” IATA commented. Available capacity in the region increased by 2.7 per cent compared to July 2021.

Global CTKs seasonally adjusted. Click on charts to enlarge
Growth in global goods trade and CTKs

North American carriers posted a 5.7 per cent decrease in cargo volumes in July 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. This was an improvement over the 13.5 per cent decline in June. IATA expects the lifting of restrictions in China to boost demand in the coming months. Capacity was up 4.2 per cent compared to July 2021

European carriers saw a 17 per cent decrease in cargo volumes in July 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. This was the worst performance of all regions for the third month in a row. IATA primarily attributed this to the war in Ukraine, while labour shortages and lower manufacturing activity in Asia due to Omicron also affected volumes. Capacity increased 0.9 per cent in July 2022 compared to July 2021.

ACTK levels, actual and seasonally adjusted

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 10.9 per cent year-on-year decrease in cargo volumes in July 2022. Significant benefits from traffic being redirected to avoid flying over Russia failed to materialise, IATA said, and stagnant cargo volumes to/from Europe impacted the region’s performance. Capacity was up 4.9 per cent compared to July 2021.

Latin American carriers reported an increase of 9.2 per cent in cargo volumes in July 2022 compared to July 2021. This was the strongest performance of all regions. “Airlines in this region have shown optimism by introducing new services and capacity, and in some cases investing in additional aircraft for air cargo in the coming months,” IATA said. Capacity in July was up 21.4 per cent compared to the same month in 2021.

African airlines saw cargo volumes decrease by 3.5 per cent in July 2022 compared to July 2021. This was significantly slower than the growth recorded the previous month, at 5.7 per cent. Capacity was 2.2 per cent below July 2021 levels.

CTK growth versus global new export orders
International CTK growth (airline region of registration)

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