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Amid continuing capacity crunch, May's air cargo volumes show slight pickup, says IATA

The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) recent release of data for global air freight markets in May shows that there was a slight improvement in the air cargo market.

But, IATA says there was insufficient capacity to meet demand as a result of the loss of belly cargo operations on passenger aircraft that have been parked.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne kilometers (CTKs), fell by 20.3 percent in May compared to the previous year (-21.5 percent for international markets). Global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 34.7 percent in May compared to the previous year (-32.2 percent for international markets), a slight deceleration from the 41.6 percent year-on-year drop in April. Belly capacity for international air cargo shrank by 66.4 percent in May compared to the previous year due to the withdrawal of passenger services amid the COVID-19 crisis (up slightly from the 75.1 percent year-on-year decline in April). This was partially offset by a 25.2 percent increase in capacity through expanded use of freighter aircraft.

The cargo load factor (CLF) rose 10.4 percentage points in May. This was a slight decrease from the 12.8 percentage point rise in April. However, the extent of the increase suggests that there is still pent-up demand for air cargo which cannot be met due to the continued grounding of many passenger flights.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO said: “Air cargo demand is down by over 20 percent compared to 2019. And with most of the passenger fleet grounded, capacity was down 34.7 percent. The gap between demand and capacity shows the challenge in finding the space on the aircraft still flying to get goods to market. For that the prospects for air cargo remain stronger than for the passenger business but the future is very uncertain. Economic activity is picking up from April lows as some economies unlock. But predicting the length and depth of the recession remains difficult.”

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