Global air cargo demand in April was up 12% from its pre-crisis level, according to IATA, as the sector continues to offer a rare positive airline story during the Covid-19 crisis.

Measured in cargo tonne kilometres, the performance was led by North American carriers, which contributed 7.5 percentage points to the 12% growth rate in April. All other regions, apart from Latin America, supported the growth, IATA notes.

IATA air cargo data: April 2021 versus April 2019
Total Market 100% 12.0% -9.7% 11.2pp 57.8%
Africa 2.0% 29.2% -2.3% 12.3pp 50.4%
Asia Pacific 32.6% 5.4% -13.7% 11.5pp 63.3%
Europe 22.3% 11.5% -18.1% 18.1pp 68.1%
Latin America 2.4% -31.0% -47.2% 10.7pp 45.7%
Middle East 13.0% 15.3% -9.9% 13.1pp 59.8%
North America 27.8% 23.7% 5.8% 6.9pp 47.3%
NOTES: Changes versus April 2019. CTK = cargo tonne kilometres, ACTK = available cargo tonne kilometres, CLFC = cargo load factor change versus April 2019, CLF = cargo load factor

The improvements came amid helpful “underlying economic conditions” and “favourable supply chain dynamics”, the airline industry association explains.

The continued low level of long-haul passenger operations in particular – international belly-cargo capacity was down 38.5% during the month – meant freight capacity remained 9.7% below pre-Covid-19 levels in April.

IATA states that airlines are continuing to use dedicated freighters to “plug the lack of available belly capacity”, with international capacity from such aircraft rising 26.2% during the month.

“Air cargo continues to be the good news story for the air transport sector,” says IATA director general Willie Walsh.

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