Sharp drop in air freight demand in the Middle East

Cargo demand, measured in cargo tonne kilometers, falls more than 36% in Middle East region amid sharpest ever recorded fall in global demand
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Air freight, Air cargo

Cargo demand in the Middle East fell sharply in April as global air freight demand suffered its biggest-ever drop amid the coronavirus crunch.

Middle Eastern carriers reported a decline of 36.2% year-on-year in April, significantly worse than a 14.1% fall in March, and worse than the global average of 27.7%.

“There is a severe capacity crunch in air cargo,” said Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which released the data on global air freight markets.

Even though demand plummeted, there was still insufficient capacity in April to meet demand as a result of the loss of belly cargo operations on passenger aircraft.

“Capacity was down 42% because of the sharp cuts in passenger operations which also carry cargo. The result is damaging global supply chains with longer shipping times and higher costs,” said Mr de Juniac.

“Airlines are deploying as much capacity as possible, including special charter operations and the temporary use of passenger cabins for cargo. Governments need to continue to ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient.  

“While many have responded with speed and clarity to facilitate the movement of cargo, government red-tape—particularly in Africa and Latin America—is preventing the industry from flexibly deploying aircraft to meet the demands of the pandemic and the global economy.”

African airlines meanwhile were less affected by disruptions from Covid-19 than other regions in April. They saw year-on-year international CTKs fall by 20.9%. The small Africa-Asia market was the most resilient route in April, down only 1%. International capacity decreased 36.6%.

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