Global air cargo demand continued to outperform pre-Covid levels in March with demand up 4.4 per cent reaching the highest level recorded since the series began in 1990, International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.
Month-on-month demand also increased albeit at a slower pace than the previous month with volumes up 0.4 per cent in March over February 2021 levels.
Global demand was a slower rate of growth than the previous month which saw it increasing 9.2 per cent compared to February 2019. A weaker performance by the Asia Pacific and African carriers compared to February contributed to softer growth in March.
Global capacity measured in available cargo tonne kilometres continued to recover in March, up 5.6 per cent compared to the previous month. Despite this, capacity remains 11.7 per cent below pre-Covid-19 levels (March 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft.
Airlines continue to use dedicated freighters to plug the lack of available belly-capacity. International capacity from dedicated freighters rose 20.6 per cent in March compared to the same month in 2019 and belly-cargo capacity of passenger aircraft dropped by 38.4 per cent.
IATA said underlying economic conditions remain supportive for air cargo. This is evidenced in new export orders component of the manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) which stood at 53.4 in March. Results above 50 indicate manufacturing growth versus the prior month.
Demand for exports grew broadly in March. This was concentrated in developed countries during January and February.
Delivery times for manufactured goods are increasing which normally indicates increased demand for air cargo in efforts to reduce shipping time. And global trade rose 0.3 per cent in February - the ninth consecutive monthly increase and the longest continuous growth in more than two decades.
"The crisis has shown that air cargo can meet fundamental challenges by adopting innovations quickly. That is how it is meeting growing demand even as much of the passenger fleet remains grounded," said Willie Walsh, IATA's Director General.
The sector needs to retain this momentum post-crisis to drive the sector's long-term efficiency with digitalisation, he said.
However, Asia Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo drop 0.3 per cent in March compared to the same month in 2019.
The slight weakness in performance compared to the previous month was seen on most of the trade lanes connected with Asia.
International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 20.7 per cent versus March 2019. The region's airlines reported the highest international load factor at 78.4 per cent.
( With inputs from ANI )
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