February 2020 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Air cargo growth slumps in February as COVID-19 takes hold


  • In seasonally adjusted terms, industry-wide cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) plunged by 9.1% in February, confirming the significant early impacts of the COVID-19 virus outbreak on air cargo.
  • Although the global spread of COVID-19 intensified in February, the initial impacts were most keenly experienced in Asia Pacific, via factory closures and supply chain bottlenecks in the region.
  • In year-on-year terms, CTKs were 1.4% lower than their level of February 2019, however this relatively moderate decline – in light of the above – largely reflects the weak outcome observed a year ago.
  • Numerous cancellations of passenger flights in Asia and elsewhere in February 2020 removed considerable bellyhold capacity from the market. Consequently, industry-wide cargo capacity contracted by 4.4% annually, largely driven by the fall in capacity for airlines in APAC (-17.7%). This pushed the global cargo load factor up 1.5ppts in February.

African airlines resilient to disruptions in Feb
Year-on-year growth in international CTKs of African airlines in February (6.5%) was unchanged from that of January. The Africa-Asia and Africa-Middle East trade lanes continue to bring robust growth to the region. Despite that, a downward trend seems to have started in SA cargo volumes, after a peak in November 2019.

SA air cargo volumes tumble in February on Coronavirus

In seasonally adjusted (SA) terms, industry-wide air cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) fell precipitously in February, by 9.1% – the largest ever monthly decline for that series. This takes the SA series to levels not seen since mid-2016 and makes clear the significant and immediate impact that COVID-19 had on the global air cargo industry. On an ‘as reported’ basis (ie not adjusted to remove the seasonal influences), industry-wide CTKs decreased by 1.4% year-on-year in February, up from a fall of 3.9% in January. This seemingly inconsistent outcome can be explained by the very weak outcome in February 2019s. Download the full document here.