Airports worldwide reported a slight improvement in freight traffic in May compared to April even as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to batter the sector, though less severely than it is doing to the devastated passenger industry, latest data from the Airports Council International (ACI) showed.
Global air freight volumes declined 17.9% in May year-on-year, which was a slightly better result compared to April, ACI said in a July 31 release.
In the first five months of 2020, cargo traffic registered a 12.8% drop. The global 12-month rolling average further fell 6.7% by the end of the month.
“As in previous months, global air freight volumes have not been affected to the same extent as passenger traffic and showed signs of a slight upward curve but, with most of the passenger fleet still grounded, capacity was dramatically reduced,” said ACI in a release.
All major freight markets except for North America remained heavily impacted, but small gains started to emerge in May compared to April.
North America recorded a less significant drop of 4.6% in total freight volumes alleviated by a robust domestic freight market that recorded an increase of 0.1% compared to a substantial loss of 11.0% for its international freight market.
Asia-Pacific registered a 21.5% contraction in May year-on year. To date, the region is down 15.5% and fell 8.3% on a 12-month rolling average.
Volumes fell less steeply for Europe with -18.7% in May year-on-year, while other areas posted significant volume loss, including Africa (-38.3%), Latin America-Caribbean (-34.6%), and the Middle East (-38.2%).
The international air freight market’s negative trend eased in May with a loss of 19.6% compared to the previous month’s decrease of 26.4%. Domestic freight volumes also improved a little to -13.6% in May compared to -13.8% in April. Year-to-date air freight figures for May, as well as the 12-month rolling average, continued their negative trend and are now at -12.3% and – 6.7%, respectively.
Catastrophic impact on passenger traffic
Meanwhile, ACI data revealed a 91.3% year-over-year decline in May for the global passenger market as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is slightly above the worst decline of global passenger numbers in the history of the aviation industry of -94.4% which was recorded the previous month in April,” the report said.
Global passenger traffic fell more than 10 percentage points compared to the prior month to -52.5% for the first five months of 2020. The 12-month rolling average for the global industry is also continuing with the downward trend, recording -19.3% by the end of May.
Except for North America and Asia-Pacific, all other regional markets posted declines higher than 95% of their global passenger traffic. The start of a slow recovery of the domestic traffic helped North America and Asia-Pacific to post slightly better figures with decreases of 90.3% and 82.5% respectively. International passenger traffic continues to be virtually halted with all regions recording decline above 98% for a second consecutive month.
Global international and domestic markets posted unprecedented declines for a second month in a row, falling by 98.6% and 85.3%, respectively. The 12-month rolling average for the international segment was recorded at -20.2% and the domestic segment at -18.5%.
Domestic passenger markets remain severely affected by the ongoing crisis, but North America and Asia-Pacific have shown signs of a slow recovery. Declines are however still significant. North America posted a 88.8% decline while Asia Pacific recorded a 73.2% drop in domestic passengers. Other regions all recorded declines above 90% in May.
“After a devastating month of April for the aviation industry when global air travel came to a virtual halt, data for May revealed a tiny sign of a recovery driven by the domestic markets in China and the United States,” said ACI.
“In the Asia-Pacific and North American regions, there were signs for optimism with the data showing some early improvement in domestic passenger traffic, but international traffic continued to be practically non-existent in May.”