The first positive year-on-year growth in weekly air cargo volumes in over 12 months was recorded at the end of December, according to analysts CLIVE Data Services and TAC Index.
An eight per cent rise was recorded between 21 December 2020 and 3 January 2021, compared to the corresponding period of 23 December 2019 to 5 January 2020.
CLIVE Data Services reported that, based on both the volume and weight perspectives of cargo flown and capacity available, the load factor reached a new high of 73 per cent in mid-December. In the week ending 3 January 2021, it was 65 per cent – an “unprecedented level for this time of year” according to the analyst, and 13 percentage points above the corresponding week a year ago.
December data showed a continued closing of the gap in year-on-year volumes to minus five per cent versus December 2019 – from a yearly low of minus 37 per cent in April. Volumes rose 2.5 per cent over November 2020. This produced an overall dynamic load factor for the last four weeks of December of 71 per cent.
CLIVE Data Services also reported a two per cent increase in available capacity in December compared to November, but this remained minus 21 per cent against the level of freighter and bellyhold cargo space on offer in the last month of 2019.
“For an industry looking for every glimmer of positivity, December’s data provided some modest growth indicators,” said CLIVE Data Services’ managing director Niall van de Wouw.
“December’s performance was surprisingly strong compared to the flattish level recorded in November and, in the second half of the month, volumes didn’t fall as much as we’d typically anticipate for this normally quieter time of year.
“To outside observers looking at 2020, increasing airline revenues, at a time of decreasing volumes, may seem a contradiction. But it is logical considering the rise in the dynamic load factor, where demand and supply come together. It clearly demonstrates the reason why airfreight rates have gone up.”
Airfreight rates held up in December and, in some cases, increased over November even after the hoped-for peak season failed to materialise and there was no immediate sign of any major impact from shipments of Covid-19 vaccines, according to TAC Index’s business development director Robert Frei.