25% year-on-year decline in May betters 36.2% fall in April
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released data for air freight markets in May showing that Middle Eastern carriers reported a decline of 25% year-on-year in May, a significant improvement from the 36.2% fall in April.
Despite a number of carriers in the region maintaining some cargo capacity, traffic on all key routes was low. International capacity from the region decreased 24.4%.
The global market is also showing a slight improvement but capacity remains unable to meet demand as a result of the loss of belly cargo operations on passenger aircraft that have been parked.
Airlines in Europe and Latin America suffered the sharpest drops in year-on-year growth in total air freight volumes, while airlines in Asia-Pacific experienced slightly less dramatic declines.
Airlines in North America and Africa saw more moderate drops compared to the other regions.
Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), fell by 20.3% in May (-21.5% for international operations) compared to the previous year. That is an improvement from the 25.6% year-on-year drop recorded in April.
Worldwide the cargo load factor (CLF) rose 10.4 percentage points in May. This was a slight decrease from the 12.8 percentage point rise in April. However, the extent of the increase suggests that there is still pent-up demand for air cargo which cannot be met due to the continued grounding of many passenger flights.
Global export orders continue to fall but at a slower pace. The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) tracking new manufacturing export orders improved from the trough seen in April despite remaining in contractionary territory.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director said: "Air cargo demand is down by over 20% compared to 2019. And with most of the passenger fleet grounded capacity was down 34.7%.
"The gap between demand and capacity shows the challenge in finding the space on the aircraft still flying to get goods to market. For that the prospects for air cargo remain stronger than for the passenger business but the future is very uncertain.
"Economic activity is picking up from April lows as some economies unlock. But predicting the length and depth of the recession remains difficult.”
In terms of passenger traffic Middle Eastern airlines posted a 98.0% contraction for May, compared with a 97.3% demand drop in April. Capacity tumbled 93.9%, and load factor sagged to 23.9%, down 49.1 percentage points compared to the year ago period.