Air cargo shows signs of recovery in September

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) September data for global air freight markets showed that, despite signs of recovery, air cargo demand remains depressed compared to 2019 levels. 

Global air cargo falls in June
Global air cargo falls in June

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%;


“Air cargo volumes are down on 2019, but they are a world apart from the extreme difficulties in the passenger business. For air cargo, 92% of the business is still there, whereas about 90% of international passenger traffic has disappeared. Favorable indicators for the peak year-end season will support the continued recovery in demand. Already North American and African carriers are reporting demand gains on 2019. The challenge continues to be on capacity. As carriers adjust schedules to reflect falling passenger demand amid the resurgence of COVID-19, valuable belly capacity will be lost when it is needed the most,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. 

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