Air Cargo Demand Slumps in February

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released February 2020 data for global air freight markets. The report showed that demand, measured in cargo tonne kilometers (CTKs), decreased by 1.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Adjusting the comparison for the impact of the Lunar New Year, which fell in February in 2019, and a leap year in 2020, which meant an additional day of activity, seasonally-adjusted demand was down 9.1 per cent month-on-month in February.

By February, the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis on air cargo demand were becoming visible. The month witnessed several significant developments, which included that manufacturing production in China, one of the world’s largest air cargo markets, dropped sharply due to widespread factory closures and travel restrictions.

Also global export orders fell to a historically low level. The global Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is in contraction territory, with all major trading nations reporting falling orders and significant cargo capacity was lost as a result of airlines reducing passenger operations in response to government travel restrictions due to COVID-19, severely impacting global supply chains.

Cargo capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometers (ACTKs), dropped by 4.4 per cent year-on-year in February 2020. This was subject to the same distortions as the non-seasonally adjusted demand numbers.

“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 per cent. Asia-Pacific carriers were the most affected with a seasonally-adjusted drop of 15.5 per cent. 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,” it stated.