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Air Cargo Demand Rose 9.4% in October; Can Capacity Keep Up?

Global air cargo markets showed that demand in October continued to be well above pre-crisis levels and that capacity constraints have eased slightly, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Thursday.

Global demand was up 9.4 percent compared to October 2019, as critical capacity constraints eased slightly, but remained 7.2 percent below October 2019 levels, according to IATA. As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of Covid-19, all comparisons in the report were to October 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

Economic conditions continue to support air cargo growth but are slightly weaker than in the previous months, IATA said.

“October data reflected an overall positive outlook for air cargo,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, said. “Supply chain congestion continued to push manufacturers towards the speed of air cargo…Capacity constraints were slowly resolving as more passenger travel meant more belly capacity for air cargo. The impact of government reactions to the Omicron variant is a concern. If it dampens travel demand, capacity issues will become more acute.”

Looking at regional performance, Asia-Pacific airlines saw international air cargo volume rise 7.9 percent in October compared to the same month in 2019. This was close to a doubling in growth compared to the previous month’s 4 percent expansion.

“The improvement was partly driven by increased capacity on Europe-Asia routes, as several important passenger routes reopened,” IATA said. “Belly capacity between the continents was down 28.3 percent in October, much better than the 37.9 percent fall in September. International capacity in the region eased slightly in October, down 12.9 percent compared to the previous year, a significant improvement over the 18.9 percent drop in September.”

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North American carriers posted an 18.8 percent increase in international cargo volume in the month compared to October 2019. This was on par with September’s performance.

“Demand for faster shipping times and strong U.S. retail sales are underpinning the North American performance,” the report said. “International capacity was down 0.6 percent compared to October 2019, a significant improvement from the previous month.”

European airlines saw an 8.6 percent increase in international cargo volume in October compared to the same month in 2019, an improvement compared to the previous month’s 5.8 percent gain. Manufacturing activity, orders and long supplier delivery times remain favorable to air cargo demand, IATA noted. International capacity was down 7.4 percent compared to pre-crisis levels, a significant improvement from the previous month’s decline of 12.8 percent from pre-crisis levels.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 9.4 percent rise in international cargo volume in October versus two years earlier, a significant drop in performance compared to the previous month, 18.4 percent increase. ISTA said this was due to a deterioration in traffic on several key routes such as Middle East-Asia and Middle East-North America. International capacity was down 8.6 percent compared to October 2019.

Latin American carriers reported a decline of 6.6 percent in international cargo volume in October compared to the 2019 period, which was the weakest performance of all regions, but an improvement compared to the previous month’s 17 percent fall. Capacity in October was down 28.3 percent from pre-crisis levels.

African airlines saw international cargo volume increase 26.7 percent in October, a deterioration from the previous month’s 35 percent rise, but still the largest increase of all regions. International capacity was 9.4 percent higher than pre-crisis levels, the only region in positive territory.