Air cargo airfreight interior plane AdobeStock_213944884

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets showing that full-year demand for air cargo increased by 6.9 per cent in 2021, compared to 2019 (pre-covid levels) and 18.7 per cent compared to 2020 following a strong performance in December 2021.

This was the second biggest improvement in year-on-year demand since IATA started to monitor cargo performance in 1990 (behind 2010’s 20.6 per cent gain), outpacing the 9.8 per cent rise in global goods trade by 8.9 percentage points.

“Air cargo had a stellar year in 2021,' said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. 'For many airlines, it provided a vital source of revenue as passenger demand remained in the doldrums due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Growth opportunities, however, were lost due to the pressures of labour shortages and constraints across the logistics system. Overall, economic conditions do point towards a strong 2022.'

December saw a relief in supply chain issues that enabled an acceleration of cargo growth, he added.

“Some relief on supply chain constraints occurred naturally in December as volumes decreased after peak shipping activity ended in advance of the Christmas holiday. This freed capacity to accommodate front-loading of some Lunar New Year shipments to avoid potential disruptions to flight schedules during the Winter Olympic games. And overall December cargo performance was assisted by additional belly-hold capacity as airlines accommodated an expected year-end boost to travel,' Walsh said.

As shortages of labour and storage capacity remain, governments must keep a sharp focus on supply chain constraints to protect the economic recovery, he added.