– by staff reporter

Air cargo demand continues to trend well above pre-crisis levels, while capacity constraints persist.  

That’s according to the latest figures released by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) for September this year.

As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the impact of Covid-19, all comparisons below are to September 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), was up 9.1% compared to September 2019 (9.4% for international operations), while capacity was 8.9% below pre-Covid levels, -12% for international operations.

With supply chain disruptions and the resulting delivery delays leading to long supplier delivery times, many manufacturers are using air transport, which is quicker, to recover time lost during the production process.

  • The September global ‘Supplier Delivery Time Purchasing Managers Index’ (PMI) was at 36; values below 50 are favourable for air cargo.
  • The September new export orders component and manufacturing output component of the PMIs have deteriorated from levels in the previous month but remain in favourable territory. Manufacturing activity continued to expand at a global level, but there was contraction in emerging economies.
  • The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak year-end retail events such as Single’s Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is positive for air cargo, however further capacity constraints put this at risk.
  • The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of container shipping remains favourable. Pre-crisis, the average price to move air cargo was 12.5 times more expensive than sea shipping. In September it was only three times more expensive.

“If not addressed, bottlenecks in the supply chain will slow the economic recovery from Covid-19,” said Willie Walsh, Iata’s director general. “Governments must act to relieve pressure on global supply chains and improve their overall resilience.”

From a regional point of view, African airlines saw international cargo volumes increase by 34.6% in September, the largest increase of all regions for the ninth consecutive month. Seasonally adjusted volumes are now 20% above pre-crisis 2019 levels but have been trending sideways for the past six months. International capacity was 6.9% higher than pre-crisis levels, the only region in positive territory, albeit on small volumes.