Air cargo demand up 4% in Middle East but IATA warns of road ahead

Published: 2 April 2020 - 6:50 a.m.

The Middle East is one of only three markets where demand for air cargo increased in February, but the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that the trend will not continue.

Middle Eastern airlines’ cargo demand increased 4.3% in February compared to the same period in 2019, while capacity increased by 6%, according to IATA’s latest report.

But IATA warned that given the Middle East’s position connecting trade between China and the rest of the world, the region’s carriers” have significant exposure to the impact of COVID-19 in the period ahead”.

Global demand for air freight decreased 1.4% in February as the impact of Covid-19 began to show.

Demand began to slow after manufacturing production in China dropped sharply due to widespread factory closures and travel restrictions.

Global export orders fell to a historically low level and significant cargo capacity was lost as a result of airlines reducing passenger operations in response to government travel restrictions, impacting on global supply chains.

“The spread of Covid-19 intensified over the month of February, and with it, the impact on air cargo,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general.

“Adjusted demand for air cargo fell by 9.1%. Asia-Pacific carriers were the most affected with a seasonally-adjusted drop of 15.5%. What has unfolded since is a story of two halves. The disruption of global supply chains led to a fall in demand.

“But the dramatic disruption in passenger traffic resulted in even deeper cuts to cargo capacity. And the industry is struggling to serve remaining demand with the limited capacity available. We only got a first glimpse of this in February. Among all the uncertainty in this crisis, one thing is clear—air cargo is vital. It is delivering lifesaving drugs and medical equipment.

“And it is supporting global supply chains. That’s why it is critical for governments to remove any blockers as the industry does all it can to keep the global air cargo network functioning in the crisis and ready for the recovery.”

African carriers posted the fastest growth of any region for the 12th consecutive month in February, with an increase in demand of 6.2% compared to 2019.

The Africa-Asia and Africa-Middle East trade lanes continue to bring “robust growth” to the region, IATA said.

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