Global air cargo volume last week increased 3% while capacity remained flat, according to World ACD, a supplier of comparative market data.
The weekly snapshot underscores the trend since April of steadily improving cargo demand after the initial economic shock from the coronavirus outbreak and severely limited transportation space. Volume growth is expected to take off again with high demand for holiday merchandise, e-commerce and COVID medical supplies.
World ACD said demand in August fell 17.2% from the same month a year ago, but that’s an improvement compared to July, June and May. Despite less business, air cargo operators have enjoyed a 37% increase in revenues because rates were 65% higher than a year ago.
The Asia-Pacific region lost the least volume in August (-10), while Europe and Middle East/South Asia experienced volume declines of 25% and 22%, respectively, World ACD said.
Since March, the number of shipments fell by 36%, volumetric charges are down 22%, while revenues grew 34% and rates/yields jumped 73% in an environment where available ton kilometers was 40% less year-over year.
As high as yields are now, they were much higher in May when demand for personal protective equipment was off the charts.
In the top-10 markets, the highest average monthly rate/yield measured by World ACD was $9.81 (May; China South East – U.S. West Coast). In five of these top-10 markets, yields/rates in August were half of what they were in May. Hong Kong had lower yields/rates than China in May, but its yields/rates fell by much less than 50% from May to August.
Of the Top-40 markets in the world in 2019, nine grew in 2020, in spite of – because of – the pandemic (China East – U.S. Midwest increased its volume by 30% year-over-year), while six markets dropped from the Top-40. Cargo markets mostly retained their rankings, but the Top-100 markets as a group improved their position, as they lost much less volume than the smaller markets. Thirty markets of the Top-100 grew in 2020, 11 from Hong Kong and 9 from different parts of China, World ACD said.
Special cargo did much better than general cargo in terms of volume – a 16% drop versus a 25% drop – but the yield/rate change was most pronounced in general cargo, mostly because the category included charter flights with personal protective equipment.
Charters played a big role in August. While volumes in all weight classes decreased considerably in the top markets (ranging from -34% to -25%), shipments over 5,000 kg showed a volume growth (+2%). And the larger the shipment size, the higher the year-over-year increase in yield/rate (ranging from +27% to +87%). The increase in Express shipments was also by far the highest among the largest shipments.
Yields on passenger aircraft are higher than with all-cargo planes in some markets.
There have been many cases of freighers being deployed to help with the capacity shortage, but in August the addition of passenger flights (18%) outpaced that of freighters (2%), World ACD said.