Air freight volumes collapsed at the end of March


Air freight volumes transported collapsed in the final week of March, falling by almost 50%, amid massive cuts in global bellyhold cargo capacity and lockdowns in large parts of the world.

Overall air cargo volumes transported in March fell by 23% versus the same four weeks of 2019, but the decline in demand accelerated week upon week throughout the month, according to the latest air cargo market intelligence from Clive Data Services. In the week ending 29 March, volumes were just over half of what was moved in the same seven days of last year – down 48%, year on year.

The collapse in traffic volumes at the end of March followed relatively respectable volumes in the first week of the month, when chargeable weight was down just 4% – despite an overall reduction in capacity of around 12%, year on year – as volumes began to recover following the reopening of some capacity to and from China. But as the month progressed, air freight chargeable weight continued to fall in parallel with declines in overall global air freight capacity, with tonnages down 11%, year on year, in the second week of March and down 27% in the third week of the month – before the near precipitous decline in the final week, a week in which capacity was also down by more than 40%, year on year.

Reflecting this parallel drop in both capacity and tonnages, the ‘dynamic load factor’ for the four-week period of 68% – based on both the volume and weight perspectives of cargo flown and capacity available – represented a decrease of 1.5% points versus 2019, but an increase of 3% points versus February. 

Clive’s managing director, Niall van de Wouw, confirmed to Lloyd’s Loading List that the company’s analyses covers all the flights operated by its participating airlines, includes charters, as well as the passenger aircraft as cargo-only flights that many airlines recently began operating to partially replace the air freight capacity lost due to the cuts in passenger air services. “The decline is indeed extraordinary, but these are extraordinary times,” he told Lloyd’s Loading List.