August 2020 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Published September 30, 2020. IATA Economic Reports.

Air cargo traffic recovers slowly amid insufficient capacity


  • Industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) fell by 12.6% year-on-year in August. Seasonally adjusted volumes are on a soft upward trend but remain far below 2019 levels. International cargo demand improved in all the regions.
  • Timely indicators of economic activity – such as manufacturing new export orders – have displayed robust signs of recovery in recent months, despite elevated global new cases of COVID-19.
  • The rebound in cargo volumes has been slower than expected based on those metrics. This is mostly because air cargo capacity remains insufficient, with industry-wide available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs) declining by 29.4% in August. International belly capacity is still scarce, and airlines have not been able to raise dedicated freighters capacity as much as needed.
  • Air transport has also lost market share of global trade due to competition from cheaper ocean trade, a typical pattern during downturns but not what is usually experienced at the start of an economic upturn.

Air cargo demand in Africa higher than last year…
International CTKs of African airlines grew by an even 1.0% year-on-year in August, after the same metric was down 3.0% in July. This is the fourth consecutive month in which the region posts the strongest international demand performance. Dynamic investment flows along the Africa-Asia route continue to drive the regional outcomes.

Air cargo traffic remains weaker than in 2019…

Air cargo continued to slowly improve in August, with industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) down 12.6% year-on-year, compared to 14.4% in July. Even though August 2019 had been a soft month amidst global trade tensions, air cargo demand remains far from its 2019 levels.
    Seasonally adjusted (SA) CTKs rose in August for the fourth consecutive month (1.1% month-on-month). The pace of the improvement has however regularly slowed over time, from an 8.8% month-on-month increase in May...Download the full document here.