MIAMI – According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), freight air transport returned to its global pre-COVID-19 levels in January 2021, a “positive news” albeit it cannot compensate for the ongoing downturn in passenger traffic.

The amount of cargo measured in tonne-kilometers transported by air was 1.1% higher in January than in January 2019, as per before the pandemic in  comparison to 3 percent higher than the amount transported by air in December 2020, IATA said in a study.

The trend in the North American region was up by 11.7% as of January 2019, while Asia-Pacific declined by 6.8% and Europe were virtually stable with -0.4%. This return to the pre-Covid-19 pandemic, which has plagued the air transport for more than a year  “is a positive thing which the world economy needs,” said IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac.

“However, if there is a high requirement for freight transport, our ability (to respond) is limited by the lack of space in bunkers of passenger aircraft that travel in normal times,” he recalled. “2021 begins worse than 2020 in terms of passenger air transport; the situation is deteriorating from bad to worse,” Alexandre de Juniac said. 

Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

38% Air Traffic in 2021

Global passenger traffic (measured in passenger-kilometers) fell by 72% in January 2021 compared to the same month the previous year, a further decrease from the already appalling drop in December 2020 over the previous year (-69.7%).

It is anticipated that the airlines experienced a turnover loss of US$510bn in 2020 and that air traffic in 2021 will amount to just 33% to 38% of that in 2019, IATA cautioned on 24 February, hoping for a “strong recovery” in the second half of the vaccine deployment.

Featured image: Cargolux Boeing 747-8F landing in LAX airport. CX was the first operator of the Boeing 747-8F program. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways