The International Air Transport Association, IATA, released data for global air freight markets showing that demand, measured in cargo tonne kilometres, CTKs, decreased by 3.3 percent in January 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
Commenting on the results, IATA’s Director-General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said, “January marked the tenth consecutive month of year-on-year declines in cargo volumes.”
The air cargo industry started the year on a weak footing, he explained, adding that there was optimism that an easing of US-China trade tensions would give the sector a boost in 2020.
“But that has been overtaken by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has severely disrupted global supply chains, although it did not have a major impact on January’s cargo performance. Tough times are ahead. The course of future events is unclear, but this is a sector that has proven its resilience time and again,” De Juniac noted.
Cargo capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometres, ACTKs, rose by 0.9 percent year-on-year in January 2020.
Capacity growth has now outstripped demand growth for 21 consecutive months.
It is unlikely that the COVID-19 outbreak had very much to do with January’s weak performance.
Lunar New Year in 2020 was earlier than in 2019. This skewed 2020 numbers towards weakness as many Chinese manufacturers would be closed for the holiday period. February performance will give a better picture of how COVID-19 is impacting global air cargo.
Airlines in Asia-Pacific and Europe suffered sharp declines in year-on-year growth in total air cargo volumes in January 2020, while North American and Middle East carriers experienced a more moderate decline.
Latin America and Africa were the only regions to record growth in air freight demand compared to January 2019.
Middle Eastern airlines’ cargo volumes decreased 1.4 percent in January 2020 compared to the year-ago period, while capacity increased by 2.9 percent.
Against a backdrop of operational and geopolitical challenges facing some of the region’s key airlines, seasonally-adjusted freight volumes ticked down in January, but a modest upwards trend has been sustained.
However, IATA noted that given the Middle East’s position connecting trade between China and the rest of the world, the region’s carriers have significant exposure to the impact of COVID-19 in the period ahead.