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Airfreight demand slumps but capacity falls faster – updated

[ June 3, 2020   //   ]

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that airfreight demand dropped 27.7% compared to the same period in 2019 – the sharpest fall ever recorded – but there was still insufficient capacity because of the loss of belly cargo operations on passenger aircraft.

In its global air freight markets data for April it said belly capacity for international air cargo shrank by 75% in April compared to the previous year, only partially offset by a 15% increase in capacity through expanded use of freighter aircraft.

The cargo load factor rose 11.5 percentage points in April, the largest increase since tracking began. The magnitude of the rise suggests that there is significant demand for air cargo which cannot be met owing to the cessation of most passenger flights.

It added that while many governments responded with speed and clarity to facilitate the movement of cargo, government red-tape—particularly in Africa and Latin America—is preventing the industry from flexibly deploying aircraft to meet the demands of the pandemic and the global economy. Delays in issuing operational permits, blockages at the border and inadequate ground infrastructure continue to hamper air cargo in those regions.

IATA is urging governments to accelerate approvals for cargo operations, expedite customs clearance for urgently needed medical supplies and ensure there is adequate staff on the ground and land-based infrastructure to move cargo efficiently.

CLIVE Data Services said its figures for the following month, May, supported the continued small recovery of air cargo volumes but a fall in demand over the last two weeks of the month which may signal more challenging times ahead as airlines return capacity to the market.

As suggested by CLIVE’s data in April, the industry has passed the initial bottom. After a -37% decline in volumes year-on-year in April, the corresponding figure for May of -31% shows a slight upward curve and, measured alongside a capacity decline of -42% versus last year, the pressure on capacity remained high, with load factor increasing month-on-month from 67% to 69%.

Volumes remain erratic and this will continue for the foreseeable future, adds the analyst.

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