Global air cargo volumes continue to outperform pre-pandemic levels. According to April 2021 data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on June 8, 2021, the global cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs) is up 12% in comparison to April 2019 and up 7.8% against March 2021.

A strong V-shaped economic rebound supported by increased dedicated freighter capacity on global supply chains and competitive pricing relative to container shipping, has resulted in firm volume performance from airlines in Africa and North America despite the absence of belly capacity. In comparison to April 2019, the global dedicated freighter capacity rose by 26.2% in April 2021, alongside a 38.5% decrease in belly capacity.

Cargo demand for African airlines recorded its fourth consecutive month of growth with an increase of 30.6% in international CTK for April 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. Demand in Africa was the strongest of all the regions with consistent CTK levels above 25% compared to 2019 data. This growth can be attributed to the increased capacity and expansion in Asia-Africa trade activity, as well as a surge in freight forwarder infrastructure investments and partnerships with African airlines. Routes between Asia and Africa have remained resilient to the impact of the pandemic while being frequented by fleets of both international and African-based airlines such as Astral Aviation and Ethiopian Airlines.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo increase by 9.2% in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. However, international capacity remained constrained in the region, down 18.7% compared to April 2019.

Operating conditions and recovering export orders contributed to the positive performance of European carriers which posted an 11.4% increase in demand in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. International capacity fell by 17.5% in April 2021 versus April 2019, remaining unchanged from the previous month.

Airlines in North America posted a 25.6% increase in international CTKs for April 2021 in comparison to April 2019, following a 16.9% increase in March 2021. This performance was influenced by US consumers' purchase activity for products manufactured in Asia. The airlines have also increased their market share on routes between North and South America, due to the availability of larger freighter capacity.

Airlines based in Latin America have posted poor performance and are finding it difficult to maintain market share as the data revealed a 32.7% decline in international cargo volumes in April compared to the 2019 period. International capacity fell 52.5% compared with April 2019. Despite this, volumes on several routes in the region such as between Europe and Central America, and North and South America, have performed well.

“Air cargo continues to be the good news story for the air transport sector. Demand is up 12% on pre-crisis levels and yields are solid,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “Some regions are outperforming the global trend, most notable carriers in North America, the Middle East, and Africa. Strong air cargo performance, however, is not universal. The recovery for carriers in the Latin American region, for example, is stalled.”