Air cargo volumes fell in February, confirming the significant early impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on air cargo.
According to IATA, cargo tonne kilometres (CTK) were 1.4 percent lower than their level of February 2019, while industry-wide cargo capacity contracted by 4.4 percent pushing the global cargo load factor up by 1.5 percentage points.
Adjusting the comparison for the impact of the Lunar New Year, which fell in February in 2019, and the leap year in 2020, which meant an additional day of activity, seasonally-adjusted demand was down 9.1 percent month-on-month in February.
IATA said that February witnessed several significant developments:
- The collapse of manufacturing production in China primarily due to widespread factory closures and travel restrictions.
- The loss of bellyhold cargo capacity due to airlines reducing passenger operations in response to government travel restrictions due to covid-19.
- The biggest fall in new export orders, for most of the world’s key exporting countries, since the global financial crisis of 2009.
Alexandre de Juniac, director general and chief executive, IATA commented: “The spread of covid-19 intensified over the month of February, and with it, the impact on air cargo.
“Adjusted demand for air cargo fell by 9.1 percent. Asia-Pacific carriers were the most affected with a seasonally-adjusted drop of 15.5 percent. What has unfolded since is a story of two halves.
“The disruption of global supply chains led to a fall in demand. But the dramatic disruption in passenger traffic resulted in even deeper cuts to cargo capacity.
“And the industry is struggling to serve remaining demand with the limited capacity available. We only got a first glimpse of this in February. Among all the uncertainty in this crisis, one thing is clear—air cargo is vital.
“It is delivering lifesaving drugs and medical equipment. And it is supporting global supply chains. That’s why it is critical for governments to remove any blockers as the industry does all it can to keep the global air cargo network functioning in the crisis and ready for the recovery.”
With regards to regional performance, airlines in Europe suffered a sizeable decline in year-on-year growth in total air cargo volumes in February 2020, while North American and Asia-Pacific carriers experienced more moderate falls. Middle East, Latin America and Africa were the only regions to record growth in air freight demand compared to February 2019.