Air Cargo Recovery Continues in September

  • Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was 8% below previous-year levels in September (-9.9% for international operations). That is an improvement from the 12.1% year-on-year drop recorded in August. Month-on-month demand grew by 3.7% in September.
  • Global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 25.2% in September ( 28% for international operations) compared to the previous year. That is nearly three times larger than the contraction in demand, indicating a severe lack of capacity in the market.
  • Strong regional variations are emerging with North American and African carriers reporting year-on-year gains in demand (+1.5% and +9.7% respectively), while all other regions remained in negative territory compared to a year earlier.
  • Improving performance is aligned with improvements in key economic indicators;
    • The new export orders component of the manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index rose above the 50-mark, indicating growth, for the first time since mid-2018;
    • The World Trade Organization revised their 2020 trade growth forecast from -12.9% to -9.2%;

September 2020 (% year-on-year)

World share1

CTK

ACTK

CLK
(%-pt)2

CLF
(level)3

Total Market

100%

-8.0%

-25.2%

10.6%

56.9%

Africa

1.8%

8.2%

-28.1%

17.0%

50.7%

Asia Pacific

34.5%

-15.9%

-29.5%

10.4%

64.2%

Europe

23.6%

-15.4%

-31.8%

12.0%

62.0%

Latin America

2.8%

-22.5%

-36.5%

8.2%

45.6%

Middle East

13.0%

-2.6%

-23.6%

12.5%

57.9%

North America

24.3%

8.6%

-15.0%

10.5%

48.4%

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 ¹% of industry CTKs in 2019   ²Year-on-year change in load factor   ³Load factor level 

September Regional Performance

  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo fall 14.6% in September 2020 compared to the same month a year earlier. This was an improvement from the 16.4% fall in August 2020. Demand on routes between Asia–North America and Asia–Africa were strongest. International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 32%, despite airlines adding more capacity on many routes.
  • North American carriers returned to pre-crisis levels, posting a 1.5% increase in international demand compared to the previous year—the first month of growth in 10 months. This strong performance was driven by the Asia-North America routes, reflecting e-commerce demand for products manufactured in Asia. The region’s domestic market also performed robustly. International capacity decreased by 19.7%.
  • European carriers reported a decrease in demand of 15.7% compared to the previous year. Improvements have been slight but consistent amid recovering economic activity and increasing exports, however, all major routes remained in contractionary territory. International capacity decreased 32.8%.
  • Middle Eastern carriers reported a decline of 2.5% in year-on-year international cargo volumes in September, a significant improvement from the 6.7% fall in August. The region was one of the most severely affected by COVID-19. However, due to regional airlines aggressively adding capacity following the peak of the crisis, it has seen a sharp V-shaped recovery. International capacity decreased by 23.5%.
  • Latin American carriers reported a decline of 22.2% compared to the previous year. The region’s weak performance is owing to a severe slowdown in economic activity including trade, rather than insufficient cargo capacity. International capacity decreased 32.2%.
  • African airlines saw demand increase by 9.7% year-on-year in September. This was the fifth consecutive month in which the region posted the strongest increase in international demand. Investment flows along the Africa-Asia route continue to drive the regional outcomes. International capacity decreased by 24.9%.
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View September Air Cargo Market Analysis (pdf)


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