Air cargo volumes reach pre-COVID levels: IATA

Highlighting a clear V-shaped recovery, air cargo started the year on a positive note, with industry-wide Cargo Tonne-Kilometres (CTKs) rising above the pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the crisis started. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released January 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that air cargo demand returned to pre-Covid-19 levels. The air cargo volumes in CTKs terms were up by 1.1% in January 2021 compared with 2019 levels and 6.1% year on year. Meanwhile, capacity for the month was down by 19.5% compared with 2019 and 19.3% on last year.
As a result, cargo load factors stood at 58.9%, which is a 12 percentage point improvement on 2019 and 14.1 percentage point increase on last year. All regions saw improvement in air cargo demand this month. North America and Africa were the strongest performers, with CTKs up by a robust 11.7% and 21.1%, respectively compared with the pre-crisis period (January 2019).
Drivers of air cargo demand related to manufacturing and economic activity remained generally supportive. However, emerging markets reported weaker export demand amidst COVID-19 outbreaks.
Alexandre de Juniac, Director General & Chief Executive, IATA said, “Air cargo traffic is back to pre-crisis levels and that is some much-needed good news for the global economy. But while there is a strong demand to ship goods, our ability is capped by the shortage of belly capacity normally provided by passenger aircraft.
That should be a sign to governments that they need to share their plans for restart so that the industry has clarity in terms of how soon more capacity can be brought online. In normal times, a third of world trade by value moves by air. This high value commerce is vital to helping restore Covid damaged economies — not to mention the critical role air cargo is playing in distributing lifesaving vaccines that must continue for the foreseeable future.”
The return to cargo demand growth reflects economic indicators, IATA said.