IATA: Air cargo recovery speeds up in September as US recovers

By Rachelle Harry

Alexandre de Juniac

The latest statistics from IATA show that the speed of recovery in air cargo increased slightly in September — and this improvement is expected to continue throughout peak season.

Meanwhile, US-based carriers reported their first increase in demand for 10 months.

According to the airline association, airfreight volumes measured in cargo tonne kms (CTKs) decreased by 8% year on year in September — an improvement on the decline of 12.1% seen in August. 

Industry-wide cargo load factor (CLF) reached a record-high for September this year — up 10.6 percentage points versus a year ago to 56.9%.

Meanwhile, global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 25.2% in September — a slight improvement on the 29.4% decline seen in August.

The association said that it expects cargo demand to improve further due to e-commerce-driven events (Single’s Day, Black Friday and Christmas) taking place in the next two months, as well as the launch of the new iPhone and PlayStation 5.

“As the world economy emerges from the [coronavirus] crisis, companies would be normally expected to turn to air as their preferred mode of transport to get inventories into their production facilities as quickly as possible,” IATA said.

The association also suggested that global merchandise is expected continue improving towards the end of this year, a conclusion based on the World Trade Organization revising its 2020 trade forecast from -12.9% annual contraction to -9.2%.

However, IATA acknowledge the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 outbreak, especially as “many countries have been experiencing a second wave”.

“Despite these positive developments, there is still a considerable uncertainty about how the pandemic plays out over the next months,” IATA said.

It added: “The lack of cargo capacity remains one of the main obstacles for faster rebound in air cargo volumes.”

Looking forward, Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and chief executive, said: “Favorable indicators for the peak year-end season will support the continued recovery in demand.

“The challenge continues to be on capacity. As carriers adjust schedules to reflect falling passenger demand amid the resurgence of Covid-19, valuable belly capacity will be lost when it is needed the most.”

Looking at regional performance during the month of September, Asia Pacific-based airlines experienced a 15.9% year-on-year decline in volumes, compared with a 20.1% decline in August. Capacity decreased by 29.5% — an improvement on the 33.5% decline in August.

“Following the stagnation in the past two months, the rebound in Asia Pacific international CTKs slightly accelerated as airlines added more capacity on the routes,” IATA said.

North America-based airlines experienced an 8.6% year-on-year increase in cargo demand in September — the first positive outcome in ten months — while capacity decreased by 15%.

IATA suggested that this was due to increased e-commerce demand on Asia-North America trade lanes.

Demand for Europe-based carriers cargo continued to gradually improve in September “amidst recovering economic activity and accelerating exports”. Volumes decreased by 15.4% year on year in September, compared with the 18.9% decline in August. Capacity also shrank by -31.8%.

Airfreight demand for Latin America-based carriers “remains subdued”, with CTKs in September down by 22.5%% year on year. Capacity also declined by 36.5%.

“The region’s slow cargo recovery seems to be impacted more by a severe weakness in GDP and trade than by insufficient cargo capacity,” IATA said.

Africa-based airlines, which represent a “small and quite volatile market” recorded an 8.2% year-on-year increase in demand in September. Capacity decreased by 28.1%.

“It has been largely Africa-Asia trade lanes that drove the region’s recovery, due to the solid foreign investment from recovering China into the region,” IATA noted.

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