Middle Eastern carriers posted a 14.1 per cent rise in international cargo volumes in May 2021 compared to May 2019, according to the latest data from IATA.
“This was a slight decrease compared to the previous month (15.6 per cent) while seasonally adjusted volumes remain on a robust upward trend,” the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said while releasing the May 2021 data for global air cargo markets.
“International capacity in May was down 6.1 per cent compared to the same month in 2019, a robust improvement from the 10.1 per cent drop in April,” the IATA added.
As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons to follow are to May 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.
Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), was up 9.4 per cent compared to May 2019. Seasonally adjusted demand rose by 0.4 per cent month-on-month in May, the 13th consecutive month of improvement.
The pace of growth slowed slightly in May compared to April which saw demand increase 11.3 per cent against pre-COVID-19 levels (April 2019). Notwithstanding, air cargo outperformed global goods trade for the fifth consecutive month.
North American carriers contributed 4.6 percentage points to the 9.4 per cent growth rate in May. Airlines in all other regions except for Latin America also supported the growth.
Capacity remains constrained at 9.7 per cent below pre-COVID-19 levels (May 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft. Seasonally adjusted capacity rose 0.8 per cent 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:
Global trade rose 0.5 per cent in April.
The Purchasing Managers Indices (PMIs) – leading indicators of air cargo demand- show that business confidence, manufacturing output and new export orders are growing at a rapid pace in most economies.
The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of container shipping has improved. Pre-crisis, the average price of air cargo was 12 times more expensive than sea shipping. In May 2021 it was six-time more expensive.
“Propelled by strong economic growth in trade and manufacturing, demand for air cargo is 9.4 per cent 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.
May regional performance
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo increase 5.3 per cent in May 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This was a decrease compared to the previous month (5.9 per cent) due to a slight slowdown in growth in several large trade routes such as Within Asia. International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 16.9 per cent versus May 2019. As was the case in April, the region’s airlines reported the highest international load factor at 75.2 per cent.
North American carriers posted a 25.5 per cent increase in international demand in May 2021 compared to May 2019. This was on par with April’s performance (25.4 per cent) and the strongest of all regions. Underlying economic conditions and favourable supply chain dynamics remain supportive for air cargo carriers in North America. International capacity grew by 1.6 per cent compared with May 2019.
European carriers posted a 5.7 per cent increase in demand in May 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This was a decrease in performance compared to the previous month (11.5 per cent) due to a slight slowdown in growth on key trade routes including Europe – Asia and Within Europe. International capacity decreased by 17.3 per cent in May 2021 versus May 2019, remaining unchanged from the previous month.
International capacity in May was down 6.1 per cent compared to the same month in 2019, a robust improvement from the 10.1 per cent drop in April.
Latin American carriers reported a decline of 14 per cent in international cargo volumes in May compared to the 2019 period. This was the worst performance of all regions, but a significant improvement compared to the previous month, which saw a 32.3 per cent drop in demand. Seasonally adjusted demand also rose strongly in May. International capacity decreased 24.9 per cent compared with May 2019, an improvement over the 52.3 per cent decrease in April.
Source: Civil Aviation Authority-Qatar