IATA – May Air cargo up 9.4% compared to May 2019

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released global air cargo market data for May 2021 which reveals the continued trend for growth. Figures provided by the Association are compared to May 2019 as May 2020 figures were impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Global demand, measured in cargo ton-kilometers (CTKs), was up 9.4% compared to May 2019 with seasonally adjusted demand rising 0.4% month-on-month. Air cargo outperformed global goods trade for the fifth consecutive month. North American carriers contributed 4.6 percentage points to the 9.4% growth rate in May, with airlines in all other regions except Latin America also supported the growth. Capacity remains constrained at 9.7% below pre-COVID-19 levels (May 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft, though seasonally adjusted capacity rose 0.8% month-on-month in May, the fourth consecutive month of improvement indicating that the capacity crunch is slowly unwinding. Underlying economic conditions and favourable supply chain dynamics remain supportive for air cargo with Global trade rising 0.5% in April.

The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of container shipping has improved compared to pre-pandemic levels when the average price of air cargo was 12-times more expensive than sea shipping. In May 2021 it was six-times more expensive. “Propelled by strong economic growth in trade and manufacturing, demand for air cargo is 9.4% above pre-crisis levels. As economies unlock, we can expect a shift in consumption from goods to services. This could slow growth for cargo in general, but improved competitiveness compared to sea shipping should continue to make air cargo a bright spot for airlines while passenger demand struggles with continued border closures and travel restrictions,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Regional performances for May are as follows: Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo increase 5.3% in May 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. North American carriers posted a 25.5% increase in international demand in May 2021 compared to May 2019. European carriers posted an 5.7% increase in demand in May 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. Middle Eastern carriers posted a 14.1% rise in international cargo volumes in May 2021 versus May 2019. Latin American carriers reported a decline of 14% in international cargo volumes in May compared to the 2019 period. African airlines’ cargo demand in May increased 24.5% compared to the same month in 2019.

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