IATA: Strong end to 2021 for air cargo

Air cargo volumes grew 6.9% in 2021 helped by strong figures in December, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports.

Comparing figures to 2019, cargo figures for the year were up 6.9% and by 8.9% in December as supply chain received relief as volumes decreased after shipping activity ended before Christmas.

Capacity for the year was 10.9% below 2019 with bottlenecks at key hubs, and the lack of capacity has increased revenue and yields, with rates up almost 150%.

Economic conditions have supported air cargo growth with the global goods trade and industrial production above pre-pandemic levels, the inventory-to-sales ratio remains low, the cost of sea freight makes airfreight competitive, and rising Covid-19 cases in advanced economies has pushed up demand for PPE.

Supply chain issues remain, with labour shortages partly due to staff in quarantine, insufficient storage at airports and processes backlogs continues to put pressure on supply chains, and though the Purchasing Managers Index remains favourable for air cargo, in current conditions, IATA says it points to increased delivery times due to bottlenecks.

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA says: “For many airlines, it provided a vital source of revenue as passenger demand remained in the doldrums due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Growth opportunities, however, were lost due to the pressures of labour shortages and constraints across the logistics system. Overall, economic conditions do point towards a strong 2022.”

Commenting on December, Walsh says: “This freed capacity to accommodate front-loading of some Lunar New Year shipments to avoid potential disruptions to flight schedules during the Winter Olympic games. And overall December cargo performance was assisted by additional belly-hold capacity as airlines accommodated an expected year-end boost to travel. As shortages of labour and storage capacity remain, governments must keep a sharp focus on supply chain constraints to protect the economic recovery.”