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An Ethiopian Cargo Boeing 777 lifts off in Limburg, Netherlands. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

IATA: Improved Air Cargo Demand In Africa Despite Global Drop

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released September data for global air freight markets showing that air cargo demand, while strengthening, remains depressed compared to 2019 levels. However, African airlines saw demand increase by 9.7% year-over-year in September.

African airlines led the international CTK growth chart for another month, recording a 9.7% annual increase in cargo volumes. Africa’s volume returned back to the pre-crisis levels in two months and has contributed to Africa-Asia trades that have driven the region’s recovery.

“Air cargo volumes are down on 2019, but they are a world apart from the extreme difficulties in the passenger business,” said IATA Director General and CEO Alexander de Juniac on global cargo operations.

“For air cargo, 92% of the business is still there, whereas about 90% of international passenger traffic has disappeared. Favorable indicators for the peak year-end season will support the continued recovery in demand,” Juniac continued. “Already North American and African carriers are reporting demand gains on 2019. The challenge continues to be on capacity. As carriers adjust schedules to reflect falling passenger demand amid the resurgence of COVID-19, valuable belly capacity will be lost when it is needed the most.”

Global demand, measured in cargo ton-kilometers (ACTKs), was 8% below 2019 levels in September (-9.9% for international operations). That is an improvement from the 12.1% year-on-year drop recorded in August. Month-over-month demand grew by 3.7% in September.

Meanwhile, global capacity shrank by 25.2% in September (‑28% for international operations) compared to the previous year. That is nearly three times larger than the contraction in demand.

Other Regional Performances

Middle Eastern carriers reported a decline of 2.5% in year-on-year international cargo volumes in September, a significant improvement from the 6.7% fall in August. The region was one of the most severely affected by COVID-19. However, due to regional airlines aggressively adding capacity following the peak of the crisis, it has seen a sharp V-shaped recovery. International capacity decreased by 23.5%.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo fall 14.6% in September 2020 compared to the same month a year ago. This was an improvement from the 16.4% fall in August 2020. Demand on routes between Asia and both North America and Africa was strongest. International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 32%, despite airlines adding more capacity on many routes.

North American carriers returned to pre-crisis levels, posting a 1.5% increase in international demand compared to the previous year—the first month of growth in 10 months. This strong performance was driven by the Asia-North America routes, reflecting e-commerce demand for products manufactured in Asia. The region’s domestic market also performed robustly, but international capacity decreased by 19.7%.

Latin American carriers reported a decline of 22.2% compared to the previous year. The region’s weak performance is owing to a severe slowdown in economic activity rather than insufficient cargo capacity. International capacity decreased by 32.2%.

Victor Shalton
Victor Shalton
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