Demand in April 2021 was higher by 12% compared to April 2019 and was 7.8% higher compared to March 2021
International capacity from dedicated freighters rose 26.2% in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, while belly-cargo capacity dropped by 38.5%
Rising global trade, stabilized rates compared to sea shipping prices and a speed advantage as supply chain disruptions cause delivery delays are supporting air cargo
North American carriers posted the strongest performance, reflecting the strong appetite of US consumers for Asian-manufactured products
Global air cargo volumes continue to outperform pre-COVID levels, as demand in April 2021 expanded 12% compared to April 2019, according to new data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Demand, measured in cargo tonne kilometers, was also up 7.8% compared to March 2021, as IATA eschewed comparisons with April 2020 because of distorted results owing to the the extraordinary impact of COVID-19.
The strong performance was led by North American carriers, which contributed 7.5 percentage points to the 12% growth rate in April. Airlines in all other regions except for Latin America also supported the growth, IATA said in its latest media release.
Capacity remains 9.7% below pre-COVID-19 levels (April 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft. Airlines continue to use dedicated freighters to plug the lack of available belly capacity. International capacity from dedicated freighters rose 26.2% in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, while belly-cargo capacity dropped by 38.5%.
Underlying economic conditions and favorable supply chain dynamics remain supportive for air cargo, said IATA, noting that global trade rose 4.2% in March.
Moreover, competitiveness against sea shipping has improved as air cargo rates have stabilized since reaching a peak in April 2020, while shipping container rates have remain relatively high in comparison.
Meanwhile, longer supplier delivery times as economic activity ramps up make the speed of air cargo an advantage by recovering some of the time lost in the production process.
“Air cargo continues to be the good news story for the air transport sector. Demand is up 12% on pre-crisis levels and yields are solid. Some regions are outperforming the global trend, most notably carriers in North America, the Middle East and Africa,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo increase 9.2% in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, a significant improvement compared to the previous month. International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 18.7% versus April 2019. The region’s airlines reported the highest international load factor at 77.5%.
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North American carriers posted a 25.6% increase in international demand in April 2021 compared to April 2019, reflecting the strong appetite of US consumers for products manufactured in Asia. International capacity grew by 5.5% compared with April 2019.
European carriers posted an 11.4% increase in demand in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, also a significant improvement compared to the previous month. International capacity decreased by 17.5% in April 2021 versus April 2019, remaining unchanged from the previous month.
Middle Eastern carriers posted a 15.3% rise in international cargo volumes in April 2021 versus April 2019. This was a significant improvement compared to the previous month. International capacity in April was down 17.5% compared to the same month in 2019.
Latin American carriers reported a decline of 32.7% in international cargo volumes in April compared to the 2019 period. Drivers of air cargo demand in Latin America remain relatively less supportive than in the other regions, and airlines in the region have lost market share to other carriers due to financial restructuring. International capacity decreased 52.5% compared with April 2019.
African airlines’ cargo demand in April increased 30.6% compared to the same month in 2019, the strongest of all regions and the fourth consecutive month of growth at or above 25% compared to 2019. Robust expansion on the Asia-Africa trade lanes contributed to the strong growth. April international capacity increased by 0.6% compared to April 2019.