IATA: Air cargo picked up in May, demand still weak

THE International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported air cargo volume fell 20

05 July 2020 - 19:00

THE International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported air cargo volume fell 20.3 per cent in May from 2019, but that was better than April's year-over-year decline of 25.6 per cent. International demand, measured by the amount of cargo tonnes times distance carried, dropped 21.5 per cent in May.

The trade group's figures show better market conditions for airlines than those from market research firm World ACD, which recently said airfreight volume sank 29 per cent below last year's level, but improved 11 per cent from April. It uses the dimensional weight of shipments, a different metric than IATA.

IATA also announced that May passenger demand ticked up from April - with a drop of 91.3 per cent compared to May 2019. Passenger traffic was down 94 per cent in April year over year. International air travel in May nearly came to a standstill, with 98 per cent less passenger traffic than the prior year. US domestic traffic was down 89.5 per cent in May, an improvement over the 95.6 per cent decline experienced in April, reports American Shipper.

'We are only at the very beginning of a long and difficult recovery. And there is tremendous uncertainty about what impact a resurgence of new Covid-19 cases in key markets could have,' said IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac, in a statement.

In May, global airfreight capacity was 34.7 per cent less than a year earlier, outpacing the drop in demand. But the capacity situation was better than in April, when it dropped 41.6 per cent from the 2019 level, because passenger airlines began to add some flights in parts of the world, as reflected in the belly capacity improvement in May over April.

Available cargo space on passenger airlines was 66.4 per cent less in May compared to 2019, but that was an improvement from the 75 per cent decline in April. The loss of belly capacity was partially offset by a 25.2 per cent increase in capacity through expanded use of freighter aircraft.

IATA said cargo load factors rose 10.4 per cent in May after a 12.8 per cent rise in April. Planes are flying at near their full space utilisation, an indication that there is still pent-up demand for air cargo that won't be relieved until passenger networks are running close to their normal levels.

North America is the strongest freight market, according to IATA. Volume fell 9 per cent on a yearly basis in May, but that was much less than the 20 per cent or more declines in Asia, Europe and Latin America. IATA attributed the difference to shorter and less stringent lockdowns in the US and other regions, the large freighter fleets of a few regional airlines and robust US-China trade volumes. Demand on the Asia-North America route was down only 0.4 per cent in May compared to 2019, with capacity down 28 per cent.

'We appear to be in the very early stages of a recovery in air travel. But the situation is fragile. We need governments to support and strengthen the restart by quickly implementing the International Civil Aviation Organization's global guidelines for restoring air connectivity,' Mr de Juniac said.

'Governments also need to avoid adding blockers to the recovery, such as implementing entry quarantines. They have the same impact as outright travel bans and will keep economies closed down to the benefits of aviation connectivity. Governments should also avoid new fees and charges to cover the cost of Covid-19-related health measures, such as testing and contact tracing, which will make travel less accessible.'

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