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GLOBAL demand for air cargo dropped in April according to the latest data from the International Air Transport Association.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), decreased 11.2% compared with April 2021. Global demand was down 1% compared to April 2019.

Capacity was 2% below 2021. Both global capacity and international capacity decreased slightly in April compared to March. Asia experienced the largest falls in capacity.

IATA said the war in Ukraine led to a fall in cargo capacity used to serve Europe as several airlines based in Russia and Ukraine were key cargo players. Also, the zero-COVID policy in China led to capacity challenges due to flight cancellations because of labour shortages.

New export orders, a leading indicator of cargo demand and world trade are now shrinking in all markets except the US, according to IATA.

IATA director general Willie Walsh said the combination of the war in Eastern Europe and lockdowns in China had intensified supply-chain disruptions and fed inflation.

“The operating environment is challenging for all businesses, including air cargo,” Mr Walsh said.

“But with China easing lockdown restrictions, there is cause for some optimism and the supply/demand imbalance is keeping yields high.”

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Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes decrease by 15.8% in April 2022 compared with the same month in 2021.

IATA said this was the weakest performance of all regions and significantly slower than the previous month (-5.1%). Airlines in the region have been heavily impacted by lower trade and manufacturing activity due to Omicron-related lockdowns in China. Because of this, available capacity in the region fell 19.4% compared to April 2021, the largest drop of all regions.

North American carriers posted a 6.6% decrease in cargo volumes in April 2022 compared with April 2021.

Demand in the Asia-North America market declined significantly, however, other key routes such as Europe – North America remain strong. Capacity was up 5.2% compared to April 2021. Several carriers in the region are set to receive delivery of freighters in 2022, which should help address pent-up demand on routes where it is needed.

European carriers saw a 14.4% decrease in cargo volumes in April 2022 compared to the same month in 2021.

The within Europe market fell significantly, down 24.6% month on month. This is attributable to the war in Ukraine. Labor shortages and lower manufacturing activity in Asia due to Omicron also affected volumes. Capacity fell 0.2% in April 2022 compared to April 2021.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 11.9% year-on-year decrease in cargo volumes in April. Significant benefits from traffic being redirected to avoid flying over Russia failed to materialize. This is likely due to persisting supply chain issues in Asia. Capacity was up 6% compared to April 2021.

Latin American carriers reported an increase of 40.9% in cargo volumes in April 2022 compared to the 2021 period.

This was the strongest performance of all regions. Airlines in this region have shown optimism by introducing new services and capacity, and in some cases investing in additional aircraft for air cargo in the coming months. Capacity in April was up 67.8% compared to the same month in 2021.

African airlines saw cargo volumes decrease by 6.3% in April 2022 compared to April 2021. This was significantly slower than the growth recorded the previous month (3.1%). Capacity was 1.5% below April 2021 levels.

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