January 2021 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Published March 2, 2021. 

Air cargo volumes reach pre-pandemic levels


  • Air cargo volumes rose sharply for another month and reached levels last seen before the pandemic started. Industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) were higher by 1.1% vs. the pre-crisis levels (Jan 2019). In month-onmonth terms, volumes picked up by ~3% – a similar growth rate as in the previous month.
  • Drivers of air cargo demand related to manufacturing and economic activity remained generally supportive. However, emerging markets reported weaker export demand amidst COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • The recovery in air cargo capacity was adversely impacted by new capacity cuts on the passenger side of the business. Industry-wide available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs) fell by 5% month-on-month – the first monthly decline since the recovery started in May.

African airlines continue to lead the growth chart
As was the case in the previous month, African airlines topped the international traffic growth chart. Their international CTKs expanded by 22.4% compared with January 2019, supported by a robust expansion on the Asia-Africa trade lanes.

Positive air cargo developments continue into 2021

Air cargo started the year on a positive note, with industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) rising above the pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the crisis started (+1.1% vs. January 2019). In monthon-month terms, cargo volumes continued to trend sharply upwards (+3%), highlighting a clear V-shaped recovery.
    All regions saw improvement in air cargo demand this month. North America and Africa were the strongest performers, with CTKs up by a robust 11.7% and 21.1%, respectively compared with the pre-crisis period (Jan 2019). Download the full document here.