September 30, 2020: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets in August showing that improvement remains slow amid insufficient capacity. African airlines saw demand increase by 1 percent. This was the fourth consecutive month in which the region posted the strongest increase in international demand and only instance of year-on-year growth among all regions in international volumes. Investment flows along the Africa-Asia route continue to drive the regional outcomes.
Globally, demand moved slightly in a positive direction month-on-month; however, levels remain depressed compared to 2019. Improvement continues at a slower pace than some of the traditional leading indicators would suggest. This is due to the capacity constraint from the loss of available belly cargo space as passenger aircraft remain parked.
Demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), was 12.6 percent below previous year levels in August (-14 percent for international operations). That is a modest improvement from the 14.4 percent year-on-year drop recorded in July. Seasonally-adjusted demand grew by 1.1 percent month-on-month in August.
Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 29.4 in August (‑31.6 percent for international operations) compared to the previous year. This is basically unchanged from the 31.8 percent year-on-year drop in July.
Belly capacity for international air cargo was 67 percent below the levels of August 2019 owing to the withdrawal of passenger services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This was partially offset by a 28.1 percent increase in dedicated freighter capacity. Daily wide body freighter utilisation is close to 11 hours per day, the highest levels since these figures have been tracked in 2012.
“Air cargo demand improved by 1.8 percentage points in August compared to July. That’s still down 12.6 percent on previous year levels and well below the 5.1 percent improvement in the manufacturing PMI. Improvement is being stalled by capacity constraints as large parts of the passenger fleet, which normally carries 50% of all cargo, remain grounded. The peak season for air cargo will start in the coming weeks, but with severe capacity constraints shippers may look to alternatives such as ocean and rail to keep the global economy moving,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and CEO.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo fall 18.3 percent in August compared to the same period a year earlier. After a robust initial recovery in May, month-on-month growth in seasonally-adjusted demand declined for the second consecutive month. International capacity is particularly constrained in the region, down 35 percent.
North American carriers reported that demand fell 4 percent compared to the previous year, the third consecutive month with a single-digit decline. International capacity decreased 28.2 percent.
European carriers reported a decrease in demand of 19.3 percent compared to the previous year. Improvements have been slight but consistent since April’s performance of -33 percent. Demand on most key trade lanes to / from the region remained weak. International capacity decreased 33.5 percent.
Middle Eastern carriers reported a decline of 6.8 percent in year-on-year international cargo volumes in August, a significant improvement from the 15.1 percent fall in July.
Latin American carriers reported demand steady at -26.1 percent compared to the previous year, ending three consecutive months of deteriorating demand. Capacity remains significantly constrained in the region with international capacity decreasing 38.5 percent in August, the largest fall of any region.