The International Air Transport Association (Iata), which is the representative body for the global airline industry, has reported that global air cargo demand in April suffered the greatest year-on-year fall ever recorded. Measured in cargo-metric ton-kilometres (CTKs), demand in April was 27.7% down on that during the same month last year. When considering only international air cargo, the drop was 29.5%.
But air cargo capacity fell even more dramatically. In terms of available CTKs, global air cargo capacity in April was 42% down on that in April 2019. Regarding international operations, the fall was lightly less – 40.9%. This drop was due to the loss of the belly cargo carrying capacity provided by airliners. In fact, airliner belly cargo capacity on international routes in April collapsed by 75%, year-on-year.
On the other hand, increased use of freighter aircraft increased capacity by 15% during April, which somewhat offset the decline in airliner belly cargo capacity. And the cargo load factor increased by 11.5 percentage points, which was the largest such increase yet recorded. This suggested that there was a significant air cargo demand which could not be satisfied because of the lack of airliner belly cargo capacity, owing to the halting of most passenger flights.
“There is a severe capacity crunch in air cargo,” warned Iata director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. “Demand fell by 27.7% compared to April 2019. But capacity was down 42% because of the sharp cuts in passenger operations which also carry cargo. The result is damaging global supply chains with longer shipping times and higher costs. Airlines are deploying as much capacity as possible, including special charter operations and the temporary use of passenger cabins for cargo.”
Air cargo operations were still being hampered by sluggish government bureaucracies. To be effective, air cargo had to move efficiently along the entire supply chain.
“Governments need to continue to ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient,” he stressed. “While many have responded with speed and clarity to facilitate the movement of cargo, government red-tape – particularly in Africa and Latin America – is preventing the industry from flexibly deploying aircraft to meet the demands of the pandemic and the global economy.”
Of Iata’s regions, the one that suffered the worst decline in CTKs was Latin America, with a drop of 43.7%. The region with the least severe decline was North America, where cargo demand fell by 11.5%. Africa had the second least decline, with a 21.7% reduction in demand. For the Asia-Pacific, the drop was 31%, for Europe it was 33.7% and for the Middle East it came to 36.3%.