(07 July 2021)
IATA’s May 2021 data for global air cargo markets shows that
demand continued its strong growth trend.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), was up 9.4%
when compared to May 2019.
Seasonally adjusted demand rose by 0.4% month-on-month, the
13th consecutive month of improvement.

The pace of growth
slowed slightly in May compared to April which saw demand increase
11.3% against pre-COVID19 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% growth rate in May. Airlines in all
other regions except for Latin America also supported the growth.

Inside a Qatar Airways Boeing 747F. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

Capacity remains constrained at 9.7% below pre-COVID19
levels (May 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger
aircraft. 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:

– Global trade rose 0.5% 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% above pre-crisis
levels,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “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.”

Int’l belly cargo and freighter capacity growth. Click to enlarge.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international
air cargo increase 5.3% in May 2021 compared to the same month in
2019. This was a decrease compared to the previous month (5.9%)
due to a slight slowdown in growth in several large trade routes within Asia. International capacity remained constrained in the
region, down 16.9% versus May 2019. As was the case in April, the
region’s airlines reported the highest international load factor
at 75.2%.

North American carriers posted a 25.5%
increase in international demand in May 2021 compared to May 2019.
This was on par with April’s performance (25.4%) and the strongest
of all regions. Underlying economic conditions and favorable 
supply chain dynamics remain supportive for air cargo carriers in
North America. International capacity grew by 1.6%compared with
May 2019.

European carriers posted an 5.7% 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%) due
to a slight slowdown in growth on key trade routes including
Europe – Asia and Within Europe. International capacity decreased
by 17.3% in May 2021 versus May 2019, remaining unchanged from the
previous month.

Middle Eastern carriers posted a
14.1% rise in international cargo volumes in May 2021 versus May
2019. This was a slight decrease compared to the previous month
(15.6%). Seasonally adjusted volumes remain on a robust upward
trend. International capacity in May was down 6.1% compared to the
same month in 2019, a robust improvement from the 10.1% drop in
April.

Latin American carriers reported a decline
of 14% 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% drop in demand. Seasonally adjusted demand also rose
strongly in May. International capacity decreased 24.9% compared
with May 2019, an improvement over the 52.3% decrease in April.

African airlines’ cargo demand in May increased
24.5% compared to the same month in 2019. This was a decrease in
performance compared to the previous month (34.0%) due to a
slowdown in trade flows between Africa and Asia. May international
capacity increased by 0.5% compared to May 2019, remaining
relatively unchanged from April.

The complete Air Cargo Market Analysis for May
2021 can be downloaded in .pdf format

here.

Note: As
comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by
the extraordinary impact of COVID19, unless otherwise noted, all
comparisons above are to May 2019 which followed a normal
demand pattern.

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