Air cargo flies into period of uncertainty

Freight volumes returned to pre-pandemic levels in February but war in Ukraine means the market is heading into a period of uncertainty, says industry analyst CLIVE Data Services.

Chargeable weight was 0.7% below 2019 and 2.6% above February 2021, and capacity was 5.4% below February 2019 but 6.9% above last year.

Measuring dynamic load factor to consider both the volume and weight of cargo flown and capacity available, it was 65% in February, 4.5 percentage points below 2021 and 2 percentage points above 2019.

After the peak season pressures of November and December, rates have eased but are still 137% above February 2019.

The war in Ukraine means the air cargo market is heading into a period of uncertainty and an example of events that the industry has no control over.

Niall van de Wouw, Managing Director of CLIVE Data Services says: “When we consider the recovery of the aviation industry from the pandemic, the return of passengers is still a big question mark. The war in Ukraine presents another big question mark, particularly over Europe-Asia trade flows. It is difficult to overestimate what this could mean down the line.”

A drop in capacity on Europe-Asia routes and overflight issues is already impacting North East Asia routes and rising oil prices are expected to affect airfreight rates.

Van de Wouw says: “A fragile global air cargo supply chain is already sensitive to minor shocks. War in Europe and its resulting sanctions could turn the industry upside down once again, just at the time when the covid impact was looking more under control. We remain in volatile and uncertain times.”