Worldwide air cargo traffic volumes up 21% in March

Air cargo traffic in March showed year-on-year (YoY) worldwide growth of 21%, the corresponding month of last year having been significantly impacted by COVID-19, according to the latest analysis by WorldACD.

“To make any sense of this percentage (increase), we need to revisit the detailed results for March 2020,” the market data specialist said, underlining that the first and second hal of the month in question had displayed the sharpest of contrasts “in air cargo living memory.”

In its monthly analysis, WorldACD first looked at volume developments for the 30 largest markets.

For six of them (the origins USA Atlantic South, USA Midwest, Taiwan, Thailand, Belgium and Kenya), March 2021 “was simply the best month since January 2018. The same was true for the destination markets China-East, South Korea, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands and USA-Midwest.”

In contrast, other top-origins, notably China North East and Central, France, UK, India, and Australia, have not yet recovered. Their month of March remained more than 20% below their best month over the past three years. This is also the case for the destinations Australia, Canada East, China Northeast, Spain, South Africa and USA Northeast.

Soaring rates

Since the start of the pandemic, it has been air cargo rates which have undergone the most drastic change, according to WorldACD.

“The Q1 YoY rate increase of 64% puts the much smaller volume gains in a rather different light. Not only do the rate increases highlight the capacity shortage and the short term financial influence of the pandemic, they may cause further changes in cargo capacity made available by passenger airlines.

“After all, with rates on full freighter flights up by 32% YoY… and “those on passenger aircraft (having) almost doubled, airlines could be tempted to take a fresh look at the capacity they make available for air cargo.”

As to whether this is already happening, WorldACD said the increase in freighter capacity in March was seven percentage points lower than for cargo capacity on passenger aircraft, while the average rate/yield for all markets worldwide rose every week from mid-March to mid-April.

Volumes down in April

Looking at how things have shaped up in the current month, WorldACD stated that worldwide volumes decreased by 4% in Week 14 (5-11 April) on the previous week. Worldwide capacity was up slightly (+ 0.1%).

“On a regional level, the origin Central & South America did best with a volume increase of 4% week-over-week, while origin Europe showed the largest decrease (-13%).

The average worldwide yield/rate in week 14 increased compared with week 13.