August 04, 2021: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published the IATA World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) with performance figures for 2020 which signifies the devastating effects on global air transport. In international cargo, Ethiopian Airlines which ranked 21st recorded 3,393 million in scheduled cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) and 19th by scheduled freight tonnes carried i.e. 623,000. With this, the airline has entered into top 25 ranking lists globally.

Last week, IATA released the data for global air cargo markets for June showing a 9.9 percent improvement on pre-Covid-19 performance (June 2019). As per the data, African airlines’ international cargo demand in June increased 33.5 percent compared to the same month in 2019. This was the strongest performance of all regions, but notably on small volumes (African carriers carry 2 percent of global cargo). International capacity in June decreased by 4.9 percent compared to the same month in 2019.

Ethiopian's Addis Ababa cargo terminal handled more than 500,000 tonnes of freight in 2020, according to the African Airlines Association (AFRAA).

Air freight was the bright spot in air transport for 2020, as the market adapted to keep goods moving including vaccines, personal protective equipment (PPE) and vital medical supplies - despite the massive drop in capacity from the bellies of passenger aircraft.

Industry-wide available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs) fell 21.4 percent year-on-year in 2020. This led to a capacity crunch, with the industry-wide cargo load factor up 7.0 percentage points to 53.8 percent. This is the highest value in the IATA series started in 1990.

At the end of the year, industry-wide CTKs had returned close to pre-crisis values. However, the yearly decline in cargo demand (CTKs) was still the largest since the global financial crisis in 2009, at a sizeable 9.7 percent year-on-year in 2020.

The top five airlines ranked by scheduled CTKs flown were Federal Express (19.7 billion), United Parcel Service (14.4 billion), Qatar Airways (13.7 billion), Emirates (9.6 billion), Cathay Pacific Airways (8.1 billion).

Air connectivity declined by more than half in 2020 with the number of routes connecting airports falling dramatically at the outset of the crisis and was down more than 60 percent year-on-year in April 2020.

“2020 was a year that we’d all like to forget. But analysing the performance statistics for the year reveals an amazing story of perseverance. At the depth of the crisis in April 2020, 66 percent of the world’s commercial air transport fleet was grounded as governments closed borders or imposed strict quarantines. A million jobs disappeared. And industry losses for the year totaled $126 billion. Many governments recognised aviation’s critical contributions and provided financial lifelines and other forms of support. But it was the rapid actions by airlines and the commitment of our people that saw the airline industry through the most difficult year in its history,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

There were more regional differences in air cargo performance. Strong fiscal stimulus in the US boosted demand for goods manufactured in Asia, allowing CTKs carried by North American airlines to grow 4.5 percent year-on-year. This did not benefit Asia Pacific to the same extend, partly because traffic within the region was weak. CTKs in Africa grew by 1.8 percent due to the less stringent lockdowns and control measures there.

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