IATA January 2021 data for global air cargo markets show that air cargo demand returned to pre-COVID levels (January 2019) for the first time since the onset of the crisis. January demand also showed strong month-to-month growth over December 2020 levels.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons to follow are to January 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern:

  • Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 1.1.% compared to January 2019 and +3% compared to December 2020. All regions saw month-on-month improvement in air cargo demand, and North America and Africa were the strongest performers.
  • The recovery in global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), was reversed owing to new capacity cuts on the passenger side. Capacity shrank 19.5% compared to January 2019 and fell 5% compared to December 2020, the first monthly decline since April 2020.

“Air cargo traffic is back to pre-crisis levels and that is some much-needed good news for the global economy. But while there is a strong demand to ship goods, our ability is capped by the shortage of belly capacity normally provided by passenger aircraft. That should be a sign to governments that they need to share their plans for restart so that the industry has clarity in terms of how soon more capacity can be brought online. In normal times, a third of world trade by value moves by air. This high value commerce is vital to helping restore COVID damaged economies—not to mention the critical role air cargo is playing in distributing lifesaving vaccines that must continue for the foreseeable future,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

View the January 2021 Air Cargo Market Analysis (pdf)