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'Slight softening' in air cargo load factors in sight with slack retail demand

GLOBAL airlines have continued to report high load factors, with the last two weeks of January showing a new 'peak', but the market is now reporting, anecdotally, a slight softening

09 February 2021 - 19:00
GLOBAL airlines have continued to report high load factors, with the last two weeks of January showing a new 'peak', but the market is now reporting, anecdotally, a slight softening.

While load factors last month were up 9 percentage points, year on year, for the past fortnight they were up 10-15 percentage points year on year, according to Clive Data Services.



However, a lack of retail logistics in Europe, where many shops are closed, is impacting the market, according to one forwarder, who said the air freight market now 'really isn't that busy for the time of year'.



'The lack of retail air freight, especially garments, is really impacting the market.'



Nevertheless, on a longer-term metric, Clive's data shows a market in recovery. Global volumes were down just 4.5 per cent on a year earlier, and maintained month-on-month rises, while global capacity was down 18 per cent last month.



'January's load factors might be considered odd, compared with previous years, but they are also not surprising when you look at the current dynamics in the industry,' said Niall van de Wouw, managing director of Clive.



'One airline recently said it had 'November volumes in January' - but it's not free money. The market is very demanding and constantly changing.



'Airlines are having to 'fly by sight', as you simply cannot know what is around the next corner. When we read that some carriers are telling customers they cannot guarantee capacity commitments, this tells you how full flights are.



'On a lane level, for example, westbound and eastbound load factors across the Atlantic were higher in January than in November and December, at 88 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively. Capacity is tight and we sense no underlying currents which will swiftly change this.'



One airline told UK's The Loadstar it had been full for the past 12 months, and will remain so for the next, with load factors - based on weight, volume and pallet positions - at 97 per cent.


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