Transportation & Logistics Analysis

Air freight flourishes in first half

August 27 2021

Global air freight volumes exceeded 2019 pre-Covid levels by 8% in the first half of 2021. Prices have stabilised but the peak season promises to be lively.

Air freight volumes in tonne-kilometres in June 2021 were 9.9% up on June 2019, while volumes for the first half as a whole were 8% up on those for 2019, according to the International Air Freight Association (IATA). The increase in traffic in the first half was the highest since 2017.

At the same time, available capacity was 10.8% down on its June 2019 level and 12.4% down on that for the six months as a whole. Airlines kept up their efforts to make up for the shortfall in hold capacity caused by the still only partial resumption of passenger flights. In June 2021, cargo capacity was 30% higher than in June 2019, but, at the same time, cargo capacity aboard passenger aircraft was still down by nearly 40%.

Towards a dynamic and early peak season

This increase had an impact on prices. Our Upply data base shows that prices fell off somewhat between May and June on the main markets. Air freight rates nevertheless remain markedly higher than they were before the crisis. On Asia-Europe and transatlantic routes, they were also higher than they were in June 2020, when prices soared, as a result of the sharp fall in capacity during the first wave of Covid-19.

Moreover, the economic indicators suggest that this little spring slowdown will be followed by a particularly busy peak season which should lead to a return to rising freight rates. Forecasts for air freight rates between Asia and Europe in September, based on Upply data, confirm this hypothesis.

See our half-year analysis of the air freight market


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Graduated from the Superior School of Journalism in Lille, Anne spent most of her career in the international trade and logistics press, before joining Upply.
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