IATA: Record collapse in air cargo demand and capacity

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets in April showing that demand dropped 27.7% compared to the same period in 2019 – the sharpest fall ever recorded. Still, there was insufficient capacity to meet demand as a result of the loss of belly cargo operations on passenger aircraft.

  • Global demand, measured in cargo tonne kilometers (CTKs), fell by 27.7% in April compared to the previous year (-29.5% for international markets).
  • Global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 42% in April compared to the previous year (-40.9% for international markets).
  • Belly capacity for international air cargo shrank by 75% in April compared to the previous year. This was partially offset by a 15% increase in capacity through expanded use of freighter aircraft.
  • The cargo load factor (CLF) rose 11.5 percentage points in April, the largest increase since tracking began. The magnitude of the rise suggests that there is significant demand for air cargo which cannot be met owing to the cessation of most passenger flights. 


“There is a severe capacity crunch in air cargo. Demand fell by 27.7% compared to April 2019. But capacity was down 42% because of the sharp cuts in passenger operations which also carry cargo. The result is damaging global supply chains with longer shipping times and higher costs. Airlines are deploying as much capacity as possible, including special charter operations and the temporary use of passenger cabins for cargo. Governments need to continue to ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient.  While many have responded with speed and clarity to facilitate the movement of cargo, government red-tape—particularly in Africa and Latin America—is preventing the industry from flexibly deploying aircraft to meet the demands of the pandemic and the global economy,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.


Delays in getting operational permits issued, blockages at the border and inadequate ground infrastructure to/from and within airport environments continue to hamper air cargo in countries in Africa and Latin America. Air cargo needs to move efficiently throughout the entire supply chain to be effective. IATA urges governments to:

  • Accelerate approvals for cargo operations 
  • Expedite customs clearance for urgently needed medical supplies 
  • Ensure there is adequate staff on the ground and land-based infrastructure to move cargo efficiently

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