Demand for air freight improved in September and is expected to continue on that route, but the sector remains weak compared to year-ago levels, according to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), released Wednesday.

The group cited a 3.7% month-over month increase in global demand for air freight, which is measured in cargo tonne-kilometeres (CTKs). Compared to a year ago, demand was down 8%, an improvement over the 12% year-on-year decline recorded in August, the group said. 

IATA said it expects demand to improve as peak season shipping activity heats up and regional pockets of strength emerge.

“Air cargo volumes are down on 2019, but they are a world apart from the extreme difficulties in the passenger business,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in a statement announcing the monthly results. “For air cargo, 92% of the business is still there, whereas about 90% of international passenger traffic has disappeared. Favorable indicators for the peak year-end season will support the continued recovery in demand. Already, North American and African carriers are reporting demand gains on 2019.”

North American carriers reported a 1.5% year-on-year gain in demand for September, while African carriers reported close to a 10% increase. All other regions remained in negative territory.

The prime challenge moving forward is global capacity, which fell by more than 25% year-over-year—nearly three times larger than the decline in demand, indiciating “a severe lack of capacity in the market,” IATA said. Capacity is measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs).

“The challenge continues to be on capacity,” de Juniac said. “As carriers adjust schedules to reflect falling passenger demand amid the resurgence of Covid-19, valuable belly capacity will be lost when it is needed the most.”



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