Unavailability of passenger flights' belly hold space leads to capacity crunch
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets in April showing that demand dropped 27.7% compared to the same period in 2019 - the sharpest fall ever recorded.
Still, there was insufficient capacity to meet demand as a result of the loss of belly cargo operations on passenger aircraft.
Middle Eastern carriers reported a demand decline measured in cargo tonne kilometers (CTKs) of 36.2% year-on-year in April, significantly worse than 14.1% fall in March.
Despite a number of carriers in the region maintaining some cargo capacity, traffic on all key routes was low. International capacity of the region decreased 42.4%.
Global demand fell by 27.7% in April compared to the previous year.
Global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 42% in April compared to the previous year.
Critically, belly capacity for international air cargo shrank by 75% in April compared to the previous year. This was however, partially offset by a 15% increase in capacity through expanded use of freighter aircraft.
The cargo load factor (CLF) 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.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO said: “There is a severe capacity crunch in air cargo. Demand fell by 27.7% compared to April 2019. But capacity was down 42% because of the sharp cuts in passenger operations which also carry cargo.
"The result is damaging global supply chains with longer shipping times and higher costs. 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. While many have 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.”
Air cargo needs to move efficiently throughout the entire supply chain to be effective. IATA urges governments to accelerate approvals for cargo operations, expedite customs clearance for medical supplies and ensure there is adequate staff and infrastructure to move cargo efficiently on the ground.
Read More: Relief is Critical for Middle East Airlines