• For African airlines, robust expansion on the Asia-Africa trade lanes contributed to the strong growth.

April 08, 2021: 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 percent over February 2019.

African airlines’ cargo demands in February increased a massive 44.2 percent compared to the same month in 2019 the strongest of all regions. Robust expansion on the Asia-Africa trade lanes contributed to the strong growth. February international capacity grew by 9.8 percent compared to February 2019.

Globally, 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.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), was up 9 percent compared to February 2019 and +1.5 percent 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 percent compared to February 2019.

Supply chain disruptions and the resulting delivery delays have led to long supplier delivery times – the second longest in the history of the manufacturing PMI. This typically means manufacturers use air transport, which is quicker, to recover time lost during the production process.

“Air cargo demand is not just recovering from the Covid-19 crisis, it is growing. With demand at 9 percent 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,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

In February 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, Middle Eastern carriers posted an 8.8 percent rise in international cargo volumes, European carriers recorded a 4.7 percent, North American carriers posted a 17.4 percent increase and Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo rise 10.5 percent.

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