March 2020 IATA Air Freight Market Analysis
Published April 29, 2020. IATA Economic Reports.

Air cargo plunges in March as COVID-19 spreads globally


  • Industry-wide cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) contracted by 15.2% year-on-year in March, driven by sharply weaker demand across all regions as the COVID-19 outbreak extended to become a global pandemic.
  • Industry-wide cargo capacity declined by 22.7% annually due to the reduction in bellyhold capacity, as the passenger fleet were increasingly grounded. Dedicated freighter operations raised their capacity and some passenger aircraft shifted to cargo-only operations which partly offset this decline. With capacity contracting by more than demand, the global cargo load factor improved by 4.8 ppts in March, compared with the same period a year ago.
  • International CTKs in all regions, except for Africa, posted double-digit declines.

African airlines less affected by disruptions in March
Year-on-year growth in international CTKs of African airlines in March fell by 1.2% following the positive annual outcomes in January and February. The Africa/Asia market was the only trade lane which continued to post growth in March, with volumes up almost 10% year-on-year.

Cargo volumes contracted sharply in March

The impact of COVID-19 on the global air cargo volumes became significantly more pronounced in March, with industry-wide cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) contracting by 15.2% year-on-year. Global air cargo volumes have been weakening since November 2018 due to global trade tensions (notably US-China), now compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak. CTKs have fallen in annual terms for 12 consecutive months now – the longest period of undisturbed decline since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008. Download the full document here. 

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