Air cargo market still far from normal; just an 11% increase over April: WorldACD


Globally, during May 2020, chargeable weight carried by air, decreased 29% compared to May 2019. But, since the final year-over-year (YoY) figure for the month of April reported a decrease of 34%, the conclusion may be that May showed a slight improvement. The improvement was also visible month-over-month (MoM), as May showed an increase of 11% over April.

In terms of yields/rates, a completely uncommon 63% MoM increase in April was witnessed, when a good part of cargo capacity suddenly ‘disappeared’ as passenger aircraft remianed grounded. The MoM-increase in May was 5%. In other words, worldwide yields/rates still went up, from USD 3.74 to USD 3.95, in spite of additional capacity coming to the market by an increasing number of passenger aircraft being (partly) converted into freighters.

Although this small recovery does not promise a full rebound any time soon, in a number of markets some guarded optimism may be justified.

The Middle East & South Asia (MESA) market suffered the most in April (-70%) YoY, but came back strongest in May (+45%) MoM. The other origin regions showed a MoM increase varying from 4% (North America) to 14% (Central & South America). The origin Africa showed the largest increase in USD-yields/rates (+13%) MoM, whilst changes in other regions such as Europe and North America hovered between -10% and Asia Pacific & MESA with +12%.

The market from China-East to Germany benefited most from the recent. Although it slightly decreased in volume MoM, its YoY increase topped 60% both in April and May. Its performance for the year-to-date (January–May) was +24%. Other top markets that performed much better than average in the year-to-date, include Hong Kong – USA Pacific (+16%) and China East-USA Midwest (+29%). The top markets that suffered most so far this year, were Kenya-Netherlands (-28%) and Germany-China East (-24%).

In the different product categories, the most unexpected development was a 1% YoY decrease in pharmaceuticals & temperature-controlled goods, the first such decrease for this category in 2020. The larger perishable categories outperformed the market as a whole in MoM growth: Fruits & Vegetables +16% and Fish & Seafood +26%.

Looking at what happened within the month of May, the most striking features were:

  • Continuous weekly drop of worldwide USD-yields/rates: from USD 4.29 in the first days to an average of USD 3.52 for the last week
  • Daily pattern recovering from the steady drops shown in April (see graph below)

Talking about capacities and load factors, the much-reported increase in passenger aircraft being transformed into ‘quasi-freighters’ was visible in the strong load factor jump in passenger aircraft. A drop in the market share of the freighter companies between the first full week and the last week of May indicated another sign that the conversions started to have some impact.


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