MIAMI – According to IATA, in January,  air cargo levels worldwide presented a slight increase of 1.1%, compared to January 2019. Moreover, the air cargo sector seems to have reached pre-COVID-19 levels, as air cargo volumes in cargo tonne-km terms increased by 6.1% on year to year basis. 

At the same time, the air cargo sector presents encouraging results according to the load factors, as on this January the industry reached to a level of 58.9%, which translates to a surge of 14.1 percentage point increase on last year.

At the same time, the shortage of belly capacity remains an issue for the air cargo sector, which is decreased by almost 20%. Belly capacity is an extremely important pillar for the air cargo sector. For example, by 2017, the payload capacity on the bellies of wide-body aircraft was more than five times higher compared to the freighter aircraft.

According to Professor Dr. Frankie O’ Connell from the University of Surrey in the UK, in 2018 the Air France-KLM Group reduced its Freighter aircraft from 14 to 5, while the belly holds of the commercial aircraft represented 85% of the Group’s cargo activities. The challenge has been highlighted by IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac.     

DHL D-AEAT. Airbus A300B4-622R(F). Photo: John Leivaditis/Airways

Words from IATA Director General and Chief Executive


IATA Director General and Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac said, “Air cargo traffic is back to pre-crisis levels and that is some much-needed good news for the global economy. But while there is a strong demand to ship goods, our ability is capped by the shortage of belly capacity normally provided by passenger aircraft. 

That should be a sign to governments that they need to share their plans for a restart so that the industry has clarity in terms of how soon more capacity can be brought online. In normal times, a third of world trade by value moves by air. 

This high-value commerce is vital to helping restore Covid-19 damaged economies — not to mention the critical role air cargo is playing in distributing lifesaving vaccines that must continue for the foreseeable future.”

Cargolux LX-ECV Boeing 747-4HQF(ER). Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Regional Activity of Air Cargo 


On a regional basis, the air cargo sector has presented some interesting results. In the Asia-Pacific region, the load factors were the highest of any region, with almost 67%. The demand in the region was decreased 6.8% in January 2020, compared to the previous January; however, the yearly demand was up by 0.6%. 

 In North America, the demand for air cargo surged by 15.8%. This is closely connected to the flourish of the American manufacturing sector which has reached a record-high activity.

In Europe, the situation seems to be stable. IATA’s report presents a slight improvement of 4.7% this year. 

Middle-East Airlines increased their cargo volumes by 7.4%, compared to the previous year, while these airlines have provided the most significant support on routes linking Middle East-Asia and Middle East-North America. 

The airlines based on the African continent registered a 21.1% increase on January 2019 levels as well as a 15.3% improvement on last year. Moreover, IATA mentioned that a robust expansion on the Asia-Africa trade lanes contributed to the strong growth.

At last, the Latin American region provided the poorest results. The airlines on the region registered cargo volumes down by 14.2%, compared to 2019, while the airlines remained relatively less supportive than in the other regions

Chart: IATA

Featured image: Luca Flores/Airways