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Inflation Brings Air Cargo Demand Down to Earth

Global air cargo demand in June dipped 6.4 percent from the same period last year, which was an improvement on the 8.3 percent decline the prior month compared to May 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported Wednesday.

Capacity was 6.7 percent above June 2021. This was an increase on the 2.7 percent year-on-year growth recorded in May.

Global demand for the first half-year was 4.3 percent below 2021 levels, while capacity in the period was up 4.5 percent from 2021.

IATA said air cargo performance is being impacted by several factors. Trade activity ramped up slightly in June as lockdowns in China due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 eased. Emerging regions such as Latin America and Africa also contributed to growth with stronger volumes.

New export orders, a leading indicator of cargo demand and world trade, decreased in all markets, except China, and the war in Ukraine continues to impair cargo capacity used to serve Europe, as several airlines based in Russia and Ukraine were key cargo players, IATA noted.

“Air cargo demand over the first half of 2022 was 2.2 percent  above pre-Covid levels in the first half 2019,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, said. “That’s a strong performance, particularly considering continuing supply chain constraints and the loss of capacity due to the war in Ukraine. Current economic uncertainties have had little impact on demand for air cargo, but developments will need to be closely monitored in the second half.”

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Looking at regional performances, Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes decrease 2.1 percent in June compared to the same month in 2021. This was an improvement over the 6.6 percent decline in May, as demand for the first half-year was 2.7 percent below 2021 levels.

“Airlines in the region have been heavily impacted by lower trade and manufacturing activity due to Omicron-related lockdowns in China, however this continued to ease in June as restrictions were lifted,” IATA said. “Available capacity in the region fell 6.2 percent compared to June. This contributed to capacity being 0.2 percent below 2021 levels for the first half of 2022.”

North American carriers posted a 6.3 percent decrease in cargo volume in the month compared to June 2021. Demand for the first half-year was 3.3 percent below 2021 levels.

IATA said high inflation is affecting the region. Demand in the Asia-North America market has fallen and the Europe-North America market has started to decline. Capacity was up 5.6 percent year over year June and rose 6.1 percent for the first half.

European airlines saw a 13.5 percent decrease in cargo volume in June from a year earlier, the weakest performance of all regions. Demand for the first half was 7.8 percent below 2021 levels.

“This is attributable to the war in Ukraine,” IATA said. “Labor shortages and lower manufacturing activity in Asia due to Omicron also affected volumes.”

Capacity increased 5.6 percent year over year and was 3.7 percent higher in first half comparisons.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 10.8 percent year-on-year decline in cargo volume in June. IATA said expected benefits from traffic being redirected to avoid flying over Russia failed to materialize. Demand for the first half was down 9.3 percent from 2021–the weakest first half performance of all regions.

Capacity was up 6.7 percent in the month compared to June 2021. First-half capacity was 6.3 percent above 2021.

Latin American airlines reported a 19.6 percent increase in cargo volume in June year over year, the strongest performance of all regions. Demand for the first half was up 21.8 percent from 2021.

“Airlines in this region have shown optimism by introducing new services and capacity, and in some cases investing in additional aircraft for air cargo in the coming months,” IATA said.

Capacity in June was up 29.5 percent compared to the same month in 2021 and half-year capacity was 32.6 percent above 2021. This was the strongest first half performance of all regions.

African airlines saw cargo volume increase 5.7 percent in the month compared to June 2021. Demand for the first half was up 2.9 percent from 2021. As with carriers in Latin America, airlines in this region have shown optimism by introducing additional capacity, IATA noted.

Capacity was 10.3 percent above June 2021 levels, and first half capacity rose 6.9 percent over 2021.