The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has reported that the V-shaped recovery in global trade and manufacturing drove a similar V-shaped recovery in the global air cargo sector during the last quarter of last year. (Iata is the representative body of the global airline industry.)
In its Cargo Chartbook Q1 2021, Iata pointed out that global air cargo demand in the fourth quarter of 2020 (4Q20), measured in cargo-metric ton-kilometres (CTKs), was only 0.6% down in year-on-year terms. And the seasonally-adjusted volumes were also little different to those from the previous year.
“Most drivers of air cargo are now supportive,” stated the Chartbook. “Trade and industrial production are back to pre-crisis values, inventories are low compared to sales, business confidence is expanding and new export orders are generally robust.”
However, the recovery in CTKs had been hampered by a continuing lack of air cargo capacity, which was 18.7% lower in 4Q20 than in the 4Q2019. This was because of the continuing lack of airline belly hold cargo capacity. There were not enough dedicated freighter aircraft to fill the gap.
In consequence, air cargo load factors and air cargo rates had reached near record levels. Although this was providing some support to airlines, it only partly offset their loss of passenger revenues.
In year-on-year terms, the North America-Asia route saw the strongest growth in air cargo, at 14.1%. The Asia-Europe, Europe-North America, and international air cargo within Asia, all still registered declines over the same period. Asia-Europe saw a fall of 5.4%, Europe-North America was down 14.5% and international cargo within Asia declined by 10.1%.
However, when air cargo volumes were compared on a quarter-on-quarter basis (4Q20 with 3Q20), all regions showed positive growth. Globally, this came to 7.7%. For North America-Asia it was 8.4%, for Asia-Europe it was 11%, and for Europe-North America it was 4.1%, while international within Asia showed the best performance of all, with 12.8%.