IATA: Air Cargo Posts Strongest First Half-Year Growth Since 2017; June Air Travel Recovery Continues to Disappoint

- Geneva, Switzerland.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air cargo markets for June showing a 9.9% improvement on pre-COVID-19 performance (June 2019). This pushed first half-year air cargo growth to 8%, its strongest first half performance since 2017 (when the industry posted 10.2% year-on-year growth).

As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons to follow are to June 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Global demand for June 2021, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 9.9% compared to June 2019.
  • Regional variations in performance are significant. North American carriers contributed 5.9 percentage points (ppts) to the 9.9% growth rate in June. Middle East carriers contributed 2.1 ppts, European airlines 1.6 ppts, African airlines 0.5 ppts and Asia-Pacific carriers 0.3 ppts. Latin American carriers did not support the growth, shaving 0.5 ppts off the total.
  • Overall capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), remained constrained at 10.8% below pre-COVID-19 levels (June 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft. Belly capacity was down 38.9% on June 2019 levels, partially offset by a 29.7% increase in dedicated freighter capacity.
  • Underlying economic conditions and favorable supply chain dynamics remain highly supportive for air cargo:
    • The US inventory to sales ratio is at a record low. This means that businesses have to quickly refill their stocks, and typically use air cargo to do so.
  • The Purchasing Managers Indices (PMIs) – leading indicators of air cargo demand – show that business confidence, manufacturing output and new export orders are growing at a rapid pace in most economies. Concerns of a significant consumer shift from goods to services have not materialized.
  • The cost-competitiveness and reliability of air cargo relative to that of container shipping has improved. The average price of air cargo relative to shipping has reduced considerably. And scheduling reliability of ocean carriers has dropped, in May it was around 40% compared to 70-80% prior to the crisis.

“Air cargo is doing brisk business as the global economy continues its recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. With first-half demand 8% above pre-crisis levels, air cargo is a revenue lifeline for many airlines as they struggle with border closures that continue to devastate the international passenger business. Importantly, the strong first-half performance looks set to continue,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.  

JUNE 2021
% VS JUNE 2019
WORLDSHARE1CTKACTKCLF(%-PT)2CLF(LEVEL)3
Total Market
100%
9.9%
-10.8%
10.7%
56.5%
Africa
2.0%
32.0%
-7.0%
14.2%
48.0%
Asia Pacific
32.6%
0.9%
-21.6%
15.0%
67.6%
Europe
22.3%
6.7%
-15.0%
12.7%
62.6%
Latin America
2.4%
-19.9%
-23.0%
1.5%
38.1%
Middle East
13.0%
17.1%
-8.9%
12.9%
58.1%
North America
27.8%
24.0%
3.7%
7.5%
45.8%

(1) % of industry CTKs in 2020   (2) Change in load factor vs same month in 2019    (3) Load factor level

June Regional Performance


Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo increase by 3.8% in June 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 19.8% versus June 2019. Even though demand remains high, the region faces moderate headwinds from the lack of international capacity and manufacturing PMIs that are not as strong as in Europe and the US.

North American carriers posted a 23.4% increase in international demand in June 2021 compared to June 2019. Underlying economic conditions and favorable supply chain dynamics remain supportive for air cargo carriers in North America. International capacity decreased by 2.1% compared with June 2019.

European carriers posted a 6.6% increase in international demand in June 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. International capacity decreased by 16.2% in June 2021 versus June 2019. Manufacturing PMIs are very strong in Europe indicating that market dynamics remain supportive for air cargo carriers in Europe.

Middle Eastern carriers posted a 17.1% rise in international cargo volumes in June 2021 versus June 2019, boosted by strong performances on the Middle East to Asia and Middle East to North America trade routes. International capacity in June was down 9% compared to the same month in 2019.

Latin American carriers reported a decline of 22.9% in international cargo volumes in June compared to the 2019 period. This was the worst performance of all regions and a weakening of performance compared to the previous month. International capacity decreased 28.4% in June 2021 compared to June 2019. This weak performance is mostly due to local airlines losing market share to carriers from other regions.

African airlines’ international cargo demand in June increased 33.5% compared to the same month in 2019. This was the strongest performance of all regions, but notably on small volumes (African carriers carry 2% of global cargo). International capacity in June decreased by 4.9% compared to the same month in 2019.

Download complete Air Cargo Market Analysis for June 2021

PASSENGER

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced passenger demand performance for June 2021 showing a very slight improvement in both international and domestic air travel markets. Demand remains significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels owing to international travel restrictions.

As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons are to June 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in June 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 60.1% compared to June 2019. That was a small improvement over the 62.9% decline recorded in May 2021 versus May 2019.
  • International passenger demand in June was 80.9% below June 2019, an improvement from the 85.4% decline recorded in May 2021 versus two years ago. All regions with the exception of Asia-Pacific contributed to the slightly higher demand.
  • Total domestic demand was down 22.4% versus pre-crisis levels (June 2019), a slight gain over the 23.7% decline recorded in May 2021 versus the 2019 period. The performance across key domestic markets was mixed with Russia reporting robust expansion while China returned to negative territory.

“We are seeing movement in the right direction, particularly in some key domestic markets. But the situation for international travel is nowhere near where we need to be. June should be the start of peak season, but airlines were carrying just 20% of 2019 levels. That’s not a recovery, it’s a continuing crisis caused by government inaction,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

International Passenger Markets

JUNE 2021
(% VS JUNE 2019)
WORLD SHARE1RPKASKPLF (%-PT)2PLF (LEVEL)3
Total Market
100.0%
-60.1%
-51.6%
-14.8%
69.6%
Africa
1.9%
-66.6%
-59.5%
-12.4%
58.7%
Asia Pacific
38.6%
-65.6%
-56.9%
-16.6%
65.7%
Europe
23.7%
-69.2%
-59.1%
-21.6%
65.8%
Latin America
5.7%
-50.2%
-47.1%
-4.8%
78.4%
Middle East
7.4%
-77.7%
-62.9%
-30.5%
45.9%
North America
22.7%
-36.2%
-29.6%
-8.3%
80.6%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

Asia-Pacific airlines’ June international traffic fell 94.6% compared to June 2019, unchanged from the 94.5% decline in May 2021 versus May 2019. The region had the steepest traffic declines for an eleventh consecutive month. Capacity dropped 86.7% and the load factor was down 48.3 percentage points to 33.1%, the lowest among regions.

European carriers saw their June international traffic decline 77.4% versus June 2019, a gain from the 85.5% decrease in May compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 67.3% and load factor fell 27.1 percentage points to 60.7%.

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 79.4% demand drop in June compared to June 2019, improving from the 81.3% decrease in May, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 65.3% and load factor deteriorated 31.1 percentage points to 45.3%.

North American carriers’ June demand fell 69.6% compared to the 2019 period, improving from the 74.2% decline in May versus two years ago. Capacity sank 57.3%, and load factor dipped 25.3 percentage points to 62.6%.

Latin American airlines saw a 69.4% drop in June traffic compared to the same month in 2019, improved over the 75.3% decline in May compared to May 2019. June capacity fell 64.6% and load factor dropped 11.3 percentage points to 72.7%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the ninth consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic fell 68.2% in June versus the same month two years ago, an improvement from the 71.5% decline in May compared to May 2019. June capacity contracted 60.0% versus June 2019, and load factor declined 14.5 percentage points to 56.5%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

JUNE 2021
(%VS JUNE 2019)
WORLD SHARE1RPKASKPLF (%-PT)2PLF (LEVEL)3
Domestic
54.3%
-22.4%
-15.5%
-6.9%
78.8%
Dom. Australia
0.7%
-40.7%
-28.5%
-13.3%
65.0%
Dom. Brazil
1.6%
-31.1%
-30.4%
-0.9%
80.9%
Dom. China P.R.
19.9%
-10.8%
-0.8%
-8.6%
76.2%
Dom India
2.1%
-70.8%
-59.1%
-25.8%
63.8%
Dom. Japan
1.5%
-67.6%
-45.1%
-29.2%
42.0%
Dom. Russian Fed.
3.4%
33.0%
39.4%
-4.0%
81.3%
Dom. US
16.6%
-14.9%
-11.2%
-3.8%
85.9%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

China’s domestic traffic returned to negative territory in June, declining 10.8% compared to June 2019, following a 6.3% growth in May versus the same period in 2019. New restrictions had been introduced following a COVID-19 outbreak in several Chinese cities.

US domestic traffic improved from a 25.4% decline in May versus the same month in 2019, to a 14.9% decline in June. Life in the US was starting to see some normalcy following the easing of measures and the rapid rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination.

The Bottom Line


“With each passing day the hope of seeing a significant revival in international traffic during the Northern Hemisphere summer grows fainter. Many governments are not following the data or the science to restore the basic freedom of movement. Despite growing numbers of vaccinated people and improved testing capacity we are very close to losing another peak summer season on the important trans-Atlantic market. And the UK’s flip-flop to reinstate quarantine for vaccinated arrivals from France is the kind of policy development that destroys consumer confidence when it is most needed,” said Walsh.

“A risk-managed re-connecting of the world is what we need. Vaccinated travelers should have their freedom of movement returned. An efficient testing regime can sufficiently manage risks for those unable to be vaccinated. This is the underlying message in the latest WHO travel guidance. The UK, Singapore and Canada have indicated timelines to open their borders without quarantine for vaccinated travelers. The European Commission has recommended that its member states adopt travel protocols that are closely aligned with the WHO—including testing for unvaccinated travelers. Similar moves to re-open borders in line with the WHO guidance by US—leaders in vaccinating their populations—would give critical impetus to demonstrating that we can live and travel while managing the risks of COVID-19,” said Walsh.

View the full June Air Passenger Market Analysis (including 2021 vs. 2020 comparisons)
Access One Ocean, Two Shores: Time to Reconnect (pdf) presentation by Ezgi Gulbas, IATA's Senior Economist
View remarks of Willie Walsh from 28 July 2021 media briefing

Contact
From
IATA
Website
www.iata.org
Date
  • Join our community for FREE today!

  • Create and share your own profile

  • Join the discussions

  • Publish your own items

  • Subscription to our eNewsletter

your benefits?

Get connected with ATC Professionals Worldwide

Create your account

Go To Registration

FREE membership benefits

  • * create and share your own profile
  • * join the discussions
  • * publish your own items on ATC Networkmanage news, jobs, tenders, companies, events, showcases, educations, associations and literature.
  • * subscribe to our eNewsletter
Add news yourself

Page tags

Comments

There are no comments yet for this item

Join the discussion

You can only add a comment when you are logged in. Click here to login