Global air cargo growth halves in November amid supply chain disruptions

Labour shortages, insufficient storage space at airports and processing backlogs worsened by the year-end rush created bottlenecks

Global air cargo markets had slower growth in November 2021 amid supply chain disruptions. Reuters
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Supply chain disruptions and capacity constraints halved the growth of global air cargo demand last November, despite economic conditions remaining favourable for the sector.

Global air cargo demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres, rose by 3.7 per cent compared with November 2019, but was down from the 8.2 per cent expansion in October 2021, according to the International Air Transport Association's monthly report.

Labour shortages — partly due to employees being in quarantine — insufficient storage space at some airports and processing backlogs exacerbated by the year-end rush created supply chain disruptions, the industry body said.

“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,” Willie Walsh, Iata's director general, said.

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

Air cargo has been a rare bright spot for the aviation industry during the past two years of Covid-19, with rates increasing due to a surge in e-commerce and pandemic-related supply chain bottlenecks driving demand for cargo services.

Global air cargo capacity in November was 7.6 per cent below the same month in 2019, relatively unchanged from October, as capacity remains constrained with bottlenecks at key hubs.

Middle Eastern carriers recorded a 3.4 per cent increase in international cargo volumes in November 2021, down from 9.7 per cent in October 2021.

“This was due to a deterioration in traffic on several key routes such as Middle East-Asia and Middle East-North America,” Iata said.

International capacity was down by 9.7 per cent compared with November 2019, a small decrease from 8.4 per cent in October 2021, the data showed.

To relieve supply chain disruptions in the air cargo industry, Iata urged governments to ensure that aircrew operations are not hindered by Covid-19 restrictions designed for air travellers.

It also called on governments to restore international connectivity, including for passenger travel, which will ramp up vital cargo capacity with belly-hold space on passenger jets.

The number of Covid-19 cases recorded worldwide reached 311,487,724 on Tuesday, according to Worldometer data. The death toll stood at 5,515,167, while 260,888,440 people recovered from the virus.

Updated: January 11, 2022, 5:30 PM