November 4, 2021: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released September 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that demand continued to be well above pre-crisis levels and that capacity constraints persist.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), was up 9.1 percent compared to September 2019 (9.4 percent for international operations) while capacity remained constrained at 8.9 percent below pre-Covid levels (September 2019) (-12 percent for international operations).

Supply chain disruptions and the resulting delivery delays have led to long supplier delivery times. This typically means manufacturers use air transport, which is quicker, to recover time lost during the production process. The September global Supplier Delivery Time Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was at 36, values below 50 are favorable for air cargo.

The September new export orders component and manufacturing output component of the PMIs have deteriorated from levels in previous month but remain in favorable territory. Manufacturing activity continued to expand at a global level but, there was contraction in emerging economies.
The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak year-end retail events such as Single’s Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is positive for air cargo, however further capacity constraints put this at risk.

The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of container shipping remains favorable. Pre-crisis, the average price to move air cargo was 12.5 times more expensive than sea shipping. In September 2021 it was only three times more expensive.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general, said, “Air cargo demand grew 9.1 percent in September compared to pre-Covid levels. There is a benefit from supply chain congestion as manufacturers turn to air transport for speed. But severe capacity constraints continue to limit the ability of air cargo to absorb extra demand. If not addressed, bottlenecks in the supply chain will slow the economic recovery from Covid. Governments must act to relieve pressure on global supply chains and improve their overall resilience."

African airlines’ saw international cargo volumes increase by 34.6 percent in September, the largest increase of all regions for the ninth consecutive month. Seasonally-adjusted volumes are now 20 percent above pre-crisis 2019 levels but have been trending sideways for the past six months. International capacity was 6.9 percent higher than pre-crisis levels, the only region in positive territory, albeit on small volumes.

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