April 2020 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Published June 2, 2020. IATA Economic Reports.

Air cargo volumes fall further but load factors up sharply


  • The decline in industry-wide cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) accelerated in April, to 27.7% year-on-year versus 14.7% in March. This was due to subdued demand together with the disruption in manufacturing activity as COVID-19 reached all regions of the world.
  • Industry-wide cargo capacity declined by 42.0% annually, stemming from the evaporation of the belly capacity of passenger aircraft. Airlines raised freighters capacity – notably by converting passenger aircraft into freighters – to meet demand. The capacity crunch is however likely to have led to some pent-up demand for air cargo. This drove the cargo load factor up 11.5ppts year-on-year in April to an all-time high level since the start of our series in 1990.
  • The acceleration in the pace of decline in international CTKs was widespread across all the regions in April, with North America being the most resilient region, and Latin America the most impacted.

African airlines remain resilient
International CTK of African carriers plunged 20.9% in April 2020 compared to April 2019, an acceleration from the small 1.2% decline seen in March. The region has been relatively less impacted by the pandemic, with containment measures being also less strict than elsewhere. Despite the quasi-complete stop of activities of South African Airways, the small Africa/Asia market was the most resilient (in the current context) route in April – as often in the recent period.

The fall in cargo volumes accelerated in April…

With COVID-19 having reached most regions of the world, lockdowns and travel restrictions were widespread in April 2020. This has depressed manufacturing activity and goods demand as well as affected cargo capacity. As a result, industry-wide cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) contracted 27.7% year-on-year. This is the sharpest fall in the history of our industry-wide series started in 1990, worse than declines seen during the Global Financial Crisis (e.g. - 23.9% in January 2009).
    In seasonally adjusted (SA) terms, industry-wide CTKs experienced a large monthly decline (-17.6%), after a moderate fall in March (-3.0%). This has brought air cargo volumes back to levels last seen during the post GFC rebound at the end of 2009...Download the full document here.