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DATA released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for global air cargo markets shows slower growth in November 2021. Supply chain disruptions and capacity constraints impacted demand, despite economic conditions remaining favourable for the sector.

As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons below are to November 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTK), was up 3.7% compared to November 2019 (4.2% for international operations). This was significantly lower than the 8.2% growth seen in October 2021 (2% for international operations) and in previous months.

Capacity was 7.6% below November 2019 (-7.9% for international operations). This was relatively unchanged from October. Capacity remains constrained with bottlenecks at key hubs.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their international air cargo volumes increase 5.2% in November 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This was only slightly below the previous month’s 5.9% expansion. International capacity in the region eased slightly in November, down 9.5% compared to 2019.

Economic conditions continue to support air cargo growth, however supply chain disruptions are slowing growth. These include labour shortages, partly due to employees being in quarantine, insufficient storage space at some airports and processing backlogs exacerbated by the year end rush.

Global goods trade rose 4.6% in October (latest month of data), compared to pre-crisis levels, the best rate of growth since June. Global industrial production was up 2.9% over the same period.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general said, “Air cargo growth was halved in November compared to October because of supply chain disruptions. All economic indicators pointed towards continued strong demand, but the pressures of labour shortages and constraints across the logistics system unexpectedly resulted in lost growth opportunities.

“Manufacturers, for example, were unable to get vital goods to where they were needed, including PPE.

“Governments must act quickly to relieve pressure on global supply chains before it permanently dents the shape of the economic recovery from COVID-19.”

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To relieve supply chain disruptions in the air cargo industry, IATA is calling on governments to:

  • Ensure that air crew operations are not hindered by COVID-19 restrictions designed for air travellers.
  • Implement the commitments governments made at the ICAO High Level Conference on COVID-19 to restore international connectivity, including for passenger travel.
  • Provide innovative policy incentives to address labour shortages where they exist.

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