March 2021 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Published May 4, 2021.  

Air cargo volumes surge


  • Global cargo volumes reached the highest level in the history of our time series in March although their growth softened modestly compared with February. Industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) rose by 4.4% vs. the precrisis levels and by 0.4% month-on-month.
  • The near-term outlook for cargo is positive due to ongoing recovery in some of the leading demand indicators such as new export orders. In 2021, CTKs are estimated to rise by 13.1% vs. 2020, and to be 2.8% higher than 2019 levels. 
  • Recovery in cargo capacity restarted following the disruption caused by the grounding of passenger aircraft in early2021. However, global available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs) are still ~12% below the pre-crisis levels.

African airlines posted the fastest int’l CTK growth of all regions
Growth in Africa’s int’l CTKs eased but is still robust, posting the fastest int’l CTK growth of all regions in March (up a robust +24.6% vs. pre-crisis March 2019). That being said, their performance was weaker compared with an exceptionally strong February, when the growth was fueled by unprecedented 107% expansion on Africa-Asia trade lanes. Despite the softer outcome this month, African airlines’ CTKs remain close to record-high levels.

Global air cargo demand continues to improve…

Global air cargo volumes reached an all-time high in March amid an improving macroeconomic backdrop. Industry-wide cargo-tonne kilometres (CTKs) picked up by 4.4% compared with the pre-crisis level in March 2019 and by 0.4% month-on-month (blue line in Chart 1). Although this represents a slower rate of expansion vs. February (up 9.2% vs. 2019, 1.8% m-o-m) it is still a robust outcome compared to what was seen during 2020...Download the full document here.