February 2021 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Published April 7, 2021.  

Air cargo demand up 9%


  • Air cargo continued to expand strongly in February. Industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) rose by 9% compared with February 2019, an improvement on the 4.1% expansion in January. In month-on-month terms, cargo volumes picked up by 1.5%.
  • Increasing demand for air cargo services is being driven by the ‘V-shaped’ economic recovery. Also, air cargo has been gaining share in global goods trade over other modes of transport – a pattern typical during the recession recovery cycle.
  • Industry-wide cargo capacity continued to trend sideways in February due to the grounding of passenger aircraft. Cargo load factors remained elevated, at 57.5% for the industry

Africa shows fastest expansion
African carriers led the international CTK growth chart, posting a robust 44.2% expansion compared with February 2019. The smaller Africa-Asia trade lanes were the main driver behind the region’s outperformance (+107%). Note the Africa market is smaller compared to the rest of the industry (a 2% CTK share) and therefore even small changes in volumes result in outsized growth volatility.

Cargo volumes rose sharply for another month

Air cargo volumes increased further in February, supported by the wider economic recovery. Industrywide cargo-tonne kilometres (CTKs) expanded by 9% compared with February 2019, a comparison used because this is the situation before the pandemic. In month-on-month terms, CTKs picked up by 1.5% and returned to levels last seen in 2018 before air cargo business started to be adversely impacted by the USChina trade war. So this has been a strong performance.
    Note that the cargo time series have been revised by the inclusion of a number of airlines’ preighter traffic...Download the full document here.