The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released February 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that air cargo demand continued to outperform pre-Covid levels with demand up 9 per cent over February 2019.
February demand also showed strong month-on-month growth over January 2021 levels. Volumes have now returned to 2018 levels seen prior to the US-China trade war.
Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of Covid-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons to follow are to February 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.
Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), was up 9 per cent compared to February 2019 and +1.5 per cent compared to January 2021. All regions except for Latin America saw an improvement in air cargo demand compared to pre-Covid levels and North America and Africa were the strongest performers.
The recovery in global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), stalled owing to new capacity cuts on the passenger side as governments tightened travel restrictions due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Capacity shrank 14.9 per cent compared to February 2019.
“Air cargo demand is not just recovering from the Covid-19 crisis, it is growing," said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. "With demand at 9 per cent above pre-crisis levels (Feb 2019), one of the main challenges for air cargo is finding sufficient capacity. This makes cargo yields a bright spot in an otherwise bleak industry situation. It also highlights the need for clarity on government plans for a safe industry restart.
Understanding how passenger demand could recover will indicate how much belly capacity will be available for air cargo. Being able to efficiently plan that into air cargo operations will be a key element for overall recovery,”