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Insufficient Capacity Dampens Slight Air Cargo Uptick in August

Global air freight markets showed improvement in August but remained slow amid insufficient capacity, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in its monthly report.

IATA said demand moved slightly in a positive direction month-on-month, but levels remained depressed compared to last year. This is due to the capacity constraint from the loss of available belly cargo space as passenger aircraft remain parked.

Global demand was 12.6 percent below previous-year levels in August, a modest improvement from the 14.4 percent year-on-year drop recorded in July. Seasonally adjusted demand grew 1.1 percent in August from July.

Global capacity descended 29.4 percent in the month compared to August 2019. This was flat from the 31.8 percent year-on-year drop in July.

Belly capacity for international air cargo was 67 percent below the levels of August 2019 due to the withdrawal of passenger services amid the Covid-19 pandemic, IATA noted. This was partially offset by a 28.1 percent increase in dedicated freighter capacity. Daily widebody freighter utilization is close to 11 hours per day, the highest levels since these figures have been tracked in 2012, according to the report.

“Improvement is being stalled by capacity constraints as large parts of the passenger fleet, which normally carries 50 percent of all cargo, remain grounded,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said. “The peak season for air cargo will start in the coming weeks, but with severe capacity constraints shippers may look to alternatives such as ocean and rail to keep the global economy moving.”

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A regional analysis showed Asia-Pacific airlines’ demand for international air cargo fell 18.3 percent in August from a year earlier.

“After a robust initial recovery in May, month-on-month growth in seasonally-adjusted demand declined for the second consecutive month,” IATA said. “International capacity is particularly constrained in the region, down 35 percent.”

North American carriers reported demand was down 4 percent compared to the previous year–the third consecutive month with a single-digit decline. IATA said this steady performance is due in part to strong domestic and transpacific demand on the Asia-North America route, reflecting e-commerce demand for products manufactured in Asia. International capacity decreased 28.2 percent.

European carriers reported a 19.3 percent decrease in demand compared to the previous year. IATA said improvements have been slight but consistent since April’s performance of a 33 percent decline.

Middle Eastern carriers reported a decline of 6.8 percent in year-on-year international cargo volumes in August, a significant improvement from the 15.1 percent decrease in July. Regional airlines have aggressively added capacity in the past few months with international capacity improving from a 42 percent fall at the trough in April, to a decline of 24.2 percent in August, making it the most resilient of all regions.

Latin American carriers reported a 26.1 percent “steady” decline in demand compared to the previous year, ending three consecutive months of deteriorating demand. Demand on trade routes between Latin America, particularly Central America, and North America have compensated for weakness on other routes.

African airlines saw demand increase 1 percent in August. This was the fourth consecutive month in which the region posted the strongest increase in international demand and only instance of year-on-year growth among all regions in international volumes. Investment flows along the Africa-Asia route continue to drive the regional outcomes.