The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released latest data for global air cargo markets showing that the easing of Omicron restrictions in China helped to alleviate supply chain constraints and contributed to a performance improvement in May 2022.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs*), was 8.3 per cent below May 2021 levels (-8.1 per cent for international operations). This was an improvement on the year-on-year decline of 9.1 per cent seen in April.

Capacity was 2.7 per cent above May 2021 (+5.7 per cent for international operations). This more than offset the 0.7 per cent year-on-year drop in April. Capacity expanded in all regions with Asia-Pacific experiencing the largest growth.

Trade and lockdowns

Air cargo performance is being impacted by several factors. Trade activity ramped-up slightly in May as lockdowns in China due to Omicron were eased. Emerging regions also contributed to growth with stronger volumes.

New export orders, a leading indicator of cargo demand and world trade, decreased in all markets, except China.

The war in Ukraine continues to impair cargo capacity used to serve Europe as several airlines based in Russia and Ukraine were key cargo players.

“May offered positive news for air cargo, most notably because of the easing of some Omicron restrictions in China. On a seasonally adjusted basis, we saw growth (0.3 per cent) after two months of decline. The return of Asian production as Covid-19 measures eased, particularly in China, will support demand for air cargo. And the strong rebound in passenger traffic has increased belly capacity, although not always in the markets where the capacity crunch is most critical. But uncertainty in the overall economic situation will need to be carefully watched,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

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