By Damian Brett
Air cargo volumes were down again in June, although the level of decline eased compared with recent months as Covid restrictions in China began to be lifted.
The latest statistics from IATA show that air cargo traffic in June was down 6.4% in cargo tonne km (CTK) terms compared with a year earlier.
Capacity for the month was up 6.7% and the average cargo load factor slipped by 6.9 percentage points to 49.2% – the first time the load factor has dropped below 50% since February 2020.
However, the airline association pointed out that the demand decline in June was an improvement on the drop of 11.2% and 8.3% registered in April and May respectively.
IATA said that trade activity ramped-up slightly in June as lockdowns in China due to Omicron were eased and Latin America and Africa also contributed to growth with stronger volumes.
On the other hand, new export orders, a leading indicator of cargo demand and world trade, decreased in all markets, except China, and the war in Ukraine continued to impact the market.
IATA director general Willie Walsh pointed out that cargo demand was ahead of 2019 levels in the first half.
Walsh said: “Air cargo demand over the first half of 2022 was 2.2% above pre-Covid levels (first half 2019). That’s a strong performance, particularly considering continuing supply chain constraints and the loss of capacity due to the war in Ukraine.
“Current economic uncertainties have had little impact on demand for air cargo, but developments will need to be closely monitored in the second half.”
Looking at regional performance, carriers from Latin America and Africa were the only ones to post increases in demand.
Asia Pacific airlines reported a 2.1% year-on-year decline in CTK for the month, although this was a “significant” improvement on the 6.6% drop for May.
“Airlines in the region have been heavily impacted by lower trade and manufacturing activity due to Omicron-related lockdowns in China, however, this continued to ease in June as restrictions were lifted,” IATA said.
Carriers from North America registered a 6.3% fall in cargo traffic in June as high inflation affected the region.
European carriers suffered the largest decrease in cargo traffic of 13.%, which IATA attributed to the war in Ukraine, labor shortages and lower manufacturing activity in Asia due to Omicron.
There was a drop of 10.8% for Middle East-based airlines and “significant benefits from traffic being redirected to avoid flying over Russia failed to materialise”, IATA said.
On a more positive front, Latin American carriers reported an increase of 19.6% year on year in CTK for June, the strongest performance of all regions.
“Airlines in this region have shown optimism by introducing new services and capacity, and in some cases investing in additional aircraft for air cargo in the coming months,” IATA said.
Finally, African airlines registered a 5.7% increase in cargo traffic for the month as carriers added additional capacity.