IATA reports another drop in air cargo demand in July

By Damian Brett

Credit: Shutterstock

Air cargo demand slumped again in July but there are some indicators suggesting a narrowing in comparisons in the coming months.

The latest statistics from IATA show that air cargo traffic in July fell by 9.7% year on year in cargo tonne km terms – the fifth month in a row to register a drop off compared with a year earlier.

The airline association said that several factors should be noted when considering the figures: “New export orders, a leading indicator of cargo demand, decreased in all markets, except China which began a sharp upward trend in June.

It added: “The war in Ukraine continues to impair cargo capacity used to serve Europe as several airlines based in Russia and Ukraine were key cargo players.”

However, there were some positives. IATA pointed out that cargo traffic isn’t that far off 2019 levels – it was 3.5% down on two years ago in July – and that global goods trade continued to recover in the second quarter.

Also, the additional easing of Covid-19 restrictions in China will further boost recovery in the coming months.

“While maritime will be the main beneficiary, air cargo is set to receive a boost,” IATA said.

Capacity, meanwhile, was in July 3.6% up on the same month in 2021 and load factors were 6.9 percentage points down at 47.2% – the second month that the load factor has dropped below 50% since February 2020, the first being June..

IATA director general Willie Walsh said: “Air cargo is tracking at near 2019 levels although it has taken a step back compared to the extraordinary performance of 2020-2021.

“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.”

Looking at regional performance, Asia Pacific airlines saw their air cargo traffic decrease by 9% year on year in July.

“This was a significant decrease over the 2.1% decline in June,” IATA said. “Airlines in the region continue to be impacted by the conflict in Ukraine, labor 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.”

North American carriers posted a 5.7% decrease in cargo volumes in July. IATA said the lifting of restrictions in China is expected to boost demand in the coming months.

European carriers registered a 17% year-on-year decrease in cargo volumes in July.

“This was the worst performance of all regions for the third month in a row,” IATA said. “This is attributable to the war in Ukraine. Labor shortages and lower manufacturing activity in Asia due to Omicron also affected volumes.”

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 10.9% year-on-year decrease in cargo volumes in July as stagnant cargo volumes to/from Europe affected the region’s performance.

Latin American carriers were the best performing as they reported an increase of 9.2% in cargo volumes on the back of service and capacity investments.

Finally, African airlines saw cargo volumes decrease by 3.5% in July, which was “significantly slower than the growth recorded the previous month (5.7%)”.

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector. After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015. Contact me on [email protected]