Global air freight demand was down nearly 28% in April compared with a year earlier, according to IATA – the sharpest fall ever recorded.

But because three-quarters of passenger aircraft belly space was removed from the market by the coronavirus grounding, there was still insufficient capacity to meet demand.

Total capacity was cut 42% in April, though there was a 15% rise in dedicated freighter capacity.

The worst-hit regions were Latin America, the Middle East and Europe, with demand down by over a third and capacity by over 40%. In Latin America, capacity more than halved.

“There is a severe capacity crunch in air cargo,” states IATA director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac. “Airlines are deploying as much capacity as possible, including special charter operations and the temporary use of passenger cabins for cargo. Governments need to continue to ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient.”

He highlights Africa and Latin America as two regions where government red tape is preventing the industry from flexibly deploying its aircraft to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

IATA is urging governments to accelerate their approvals for cargo operations, fast-track customs clearance for medical supplies, and ensure adequate staffing for on-ground cargo operations.