IATA’s global air freight market data for February
2020 shows that demand, measured in cargo tonne kilometers (CTKs),
decreased by 1.4% 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 the leap
year in 2020, which meant an additional day of activity,
seasonally-adjusted demand was down 9.1% month-on-month in
By February, the negative impacts of the COVID19
crisis on air cargo demand were becoming visible. The month
witnessed several significant developments:
– Manufacturing production in China, one of the
world’s largest air cargo markets, dropped sharply due to
widespread factory closures and travel restrictions.
– 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
– Significant cargo capacity was lost as a result
of airlines reducing passenger operations in response to
government travel restrictions due to COVID19, severely impacting
global supply chains.
Cargo capacity, measured in available cargo tonne
kilometers (ACTKs), dropped by 4.4% year-on-year in February 2020.
This is subject to the same distortions as the non-seasonally
adjusted demand numbers.
“The spread of COVID19
intensified over the month of February, and with it, the impact on
air cargo. Adjusted demand for air cargo fell by 9.1%.
Asia-Pacific carriers were the most affected with a
seasonally-adjusted drop of 15.5%. 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. We only got a first glimpse of this in February. Among
all the uncertainty in this crisis, one thing is clear—air cargo
is vital. It is delivering lifesaving drugs and medical equipment.
And it is supporting global supply chains. That’s why it is
critical for governments to remove any blockers as the industry
does all it can to keep the global air cargo network functioning
in the crisis and ready for the recovery,” said Alexandre de
Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Airlines in Europe suffered a sizeable decline in
year-on-year growth in total air cargo volumes in February 2020,
while North American and Asia Pacific carriers experienced more
moderate falls. Middle East, Latin America and Africa were the
only regions to record growth in air freight demand compared to
Asia Pacific airlines saw demand for air
cargo contract by 2.2% in February 2020, compared to the
year-earlier period. Seasonally adjusted cargo demand fell by
15.5% compared to January 2020, to levels last seen in early 2014.
The drop in demand was largely due to the impact of COVID19.
Capacity decreased 17.7% – the largest fall since early 2013.
Cargo capacity in China dropped sharply in February, driven in
large part by the collapse of belly-hold capacity.
North American airlines saw demand decrease
by 1.8% in February 2020, compared to the same period a year
earlier. Capacity increased by 4.1%. Cargo traffic on the
Asia-North America trade lanes decreased by 2.4% year-on-year as a
result of factory closures in Asia due to COVID19.
European airlines posted a 4.1% decrease in cargo
demand in February 2020 compared to the same period a year
earlier. European carriers were among the first to cancel flights
to and from Asia, contributing to the drop in demand in February.
The Within Europe market decreased by 7.8% year-on-year. This
suggests that the region was affected by global supply chain
disruptions and early COVID19 containment measures – notably in
Northern Italy, an important manufacturing region. Capacity
decreased by 3.8% year-on-year.
Middle Eastern airlines’ cargo demand increased
4.3% in February 2020 compared to the year-ago period. Capacity
increased by 6.0%. However, 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
COVID19 in the period ahead.
Latin American airlines experienced an increase in
freight demand in February 2020 of 1.8%. Capacity decreased by
2.6% year- on-year. The region was relatively unaffected by the
COVID‑19 outbreak in February. However, disrupted global supply
chains and a fragile economic backdrop in some countries in the
region continue to create headwinds for air cargo.
African carriers posted the fastest growth of any
region for the 12th consecutive month in February 2020, with an
increase in demand of 6.2% compared to the same period a year
earlier. Capacity grew 3.0% year-on-year. The Africa-Asia and
Africa-Middle East trade lanes continue to bring robust growth to