IATA: Cargo demand increases as outlook remains positive

By Rachelle Harry

Image source: Shutterstock

IATA has reported in its latest market analysis that cargo volumes increased in August 2021, compared with pre-Covid levels (August 2019), and the outlook remains positive.

The association said global air cargo demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), was 7.7% higher in August this year than pre-Covid levels (August 2019).

Meanwhile, global air cargo capacity in August this year, measured in available tonne-kilometers (ATKs), was 12.2% lower than pre-Covid levels.

Industry-wide cargo load factor in August this year reached 54.2% — 10 percentage points higher than August 2019. 

The association suggested that economic conditions “continued to support air cargo growth”, but were slightly weaker than in the previous months.

“For now, the outlook for air cargo business remains positive, but growth in some of the key demand drivers has slowed recently and pandemic-related constraints have increased pressure on available cargo capacity,” IATA said. 

“The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak year-end retail season. This is positive for air cargo, however further capacity constraints put this at risk,” it added.

“The August manufacturing output component of the Purchasing Managers Indices (PMIs) was 51.9, indicating a short-term boost to demand if those orders are shipped by air.

“The August new export orders component of the PMIs was favorable for air cargo, despite being less supportive than in the previous months. Expansion continued at the global level, however, there was contraction in emerging economies.” 

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, commented: “Air cargo demand had another strong month in August, up 7.7% compared with pre-Covid levels.

“Many of the economic indicators point to a strong year-end peak season. With international travel still severely depressed, there are fewer passenger planes offering belly capacity for cargo. And supply chain bottlenecks could intensify as businesses continue to ramp up production.”

Looking at regional performance in August 2021, Africa-based airlines recorded volumes 32.4% higher than in the same period of 2019. Capacity in the region was 3.8% lower than August 2019.

IATA said: “Amongst the key regional routes, Africa-Asia has been showing the fastest expansion, at 26.4% versus two years ago.”

Cargo demand for North America-based airlines was 13.3% higher than August 2019. Capacity was also higher — by 0.7%.

IATA noted: “Manufacturing PMI indices signal that production and new export orders continue to rise robustly in the US.”

Europe-based airlines posted volumes 6.3% higher than in August 2019, while capacity was 12.1% lower.

“The drivers of near-term air cargo demand including manufacturing production and export demand continue to perform well in the region,” IATA commented.

Carriers based in the Middle East achieved volumes that were 15.5% higher than in August 2019. Capacity in the region was down 5.2% on pre-Covid levels.

“The region’s growth was boosted by cargo traffic on Middle East-Asia segment-based routes (+16.4% in August versus August 2019),” IATA observed.

Air cargo demand for Asia Pacific-based airlines was 2.1% higher than in August 2019. Meanwhile, capacity was 28.1% lower than pre-Covid levels.

IATA noted: “Looking ahead, the slowing growth momentum in the Chinese economy indicates that operating backdrop will be less supportive to the region’s near-term cargo demand.”

Latin America-based carriers recorded cargo volumes in August 2021 that were 13.2% lower than pre-Covid levels. Capacity in the region was also lower than August 2019 — by 20%.

IATA said: “The shortage of international cargo capacity remains the largest amongst all regions, at -27.1% versus August 2019).”

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