IATA : Air Cargo Recovery Continues in September, but No Relief to Passenger Downturn

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released September data for global air freight and passenger markets pointing that air cargo demand though encouraging, remains depressed compared to 2019 levels and passenger demand remained highly depressed

Passenger:

  1. Total demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was 72.8% below September 2019 levels (only slightly improved over the 75.2% year-to-year decline recorded in August). Capacity was down 63% compared to a year ago, and load factor fell 21.8 percentage points to 60.1%.
  2. International passenger demand in September plunged 88.8% compared to September 2019, basically unchanged from the 88.5% decline recorded in August. Capacity plummeted 78.9%, and load factor withered 38.2 percentage points to 43.5%.
  3. Domestic demand in September was down 43.3% compared to the previous year, improved from a 50.7% decline in August. Compared to 2019, capacity fell 33.3%, and the load factor dropped 12.4 percentage points to 69.9%. 

Cargo:

  1. Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was 8% below previous-year levels in September (-9.9% for international operations). That is an improvement from the 12.1% year-on-year drop recorded in August. Month-on-month demand grew by 3.7% in September.  
  2. Global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 25.2% in September (‑28% for international operations) compared to the previous year. That is nearly three times larger than the contraction in demand, indicating a severe lack of capacity in the market. 
  3. Strong regional variations are emerging with North American and African carriers reporting year-on-year gains in demand (+1.5% and +9.7% respectively). At the same time, all other regions remained in negative territory compared to a year earlier.
  4. Improving performance is aligned with improvements in key economic indicators. a) The new export orders component of the manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index rose above the 50-mark, indicating growth, for the first time since mid-2018. b)The World Trade Organization revised its 2020 trade growth forecast from -12.9% to -9.2%.

“We have hit a wall in the industry’s recovery. A resurgence in COVID-19 outbreaks--particularly in Europe and the US--combined with governments’ reliance on the blunt instrument of quarantine in the absence of globally aligned testing regimes, has halted momentum toward re-opening borders to travel. Although domestic markets are doing better, this is primarily owing to improvements in China and Russia. And domestic traffic represents just a bit more than a third of total traffic, so it is not enough to sustain a general recovery.” 

“Air cargo volumes are down on 2019, but they are a world apart from the extreme difficulties in the passenger business. For air cargo, 92% of the business is still there, whereas about 90% of international passenger traffic has disappeared. Favourable indicators for the peak year-end season will support the continued recovery in demand. Already North American and African carriers are reporting demand gains on 2019. The challenge continues to be on capacity. As carriers adjust schedules to reflect falling passenger demand amid the resurgence of COVID-19, valuable belly capacity will be lost when it is needed the most,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. 

IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic. 

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