Air freight demand returns but space remains an issue

The latest air cargo figures from the International Air Transport Association, the trade association of the world’s airlines, shows that while demand is growing ahead of pre-Covid levels, capacity is impeding growth and keeping prices far above the pre-pandemic levels.

Measuring air freight demand by cargo tonne km (CTKs) IATA’s February 2021 figures show growth is up 1.5% on January 2021 and 9% on February 2019, with the latter figures particularly promising, as they are not distorted by the massive impact of Covid-19.

Illustrating the impact of the pandemic on the air transport sector, global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne km (ACTKs), declined by 14.9% compared with pre-Covid levels in February 2019, reflecting the unprecedented grounding of much of the world’s passenger aircraft fleet.

IATA represents 290 passenger airlines and cargo carriers – but not dedicated freighter carriers like Cargolux – which means its cargo figures are based solely on cargo carried in ‘belly-hold’ capacity.

With demand rising, the main challenge for air cargo is finding sufficient capacity and highlights the need for a safe industry restart, because understanding how passenger demand could recover will indicate how much belly capacity will be available for air cargo.

Air cargo demand is not just recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, it is growing significantly and with demand already 9% above pre-crisis levels, the main challenge facing shippers of time-sensitive cargo is finding sufficient capacity, which may mean looking beyond passenger carriers belly-hold, to cargo carriers and sea-air solutions, which offer rapid transits for far lower cost.

The need for a spread of time-sensitive solutions is particularly imperative, because so many factors are driving demand:

  • Conditions in the manufacturing sector are robust, with the global manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) at 53.9 in February (results above 50 indicate manufacturing growth versus the prior month.)
  • The new export orders component of the manufacturing PMI – a leading indicator of air cargo demand– picked up compared to January.
  • Supply chain disruptions and the resulting delivery delays have led to long supplier delivery times (the second longest in the history of the PMI) which typically means manufacturers use air transport, to recover time lost during the production process.
  • Inventory levels remain relatively low compared to sales volumes which, historically, has meant businesses quickly refill their stocks, using air cargo.

Metro work closely with the world’s leading passenger airlines, cargo airlines, ‘preighter’ carriers and key hub partners to offer the widest range of time-sensitive solutions, routes and transit times, at the most competitive rates available in the current market.

We are currently reviewing charter operations to add additional capacity on specific routes, or where required by our customers and can, when appropriate provide dedicated charter solutions, with equipment matched to consignment and supply chain needs.

If you have urgent or time sensitive consignments and would like to explore options, transits and costs, please contact Elliot Carlile or Grant Liddell for all options available to ensure that deadlines are always met.