March was more than a roller-coaster ride says WorldACD

WorldACD March
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Noting the sheer difficulty, if not near impossible nature of comparing air cargo data in the extreme turbulence of the Covid-19 pandemic, WorldACD Market Data highlights that, “the word roller-coaster does not even begin to describe what the air cargo world has experienced in March.”

“Trying to compare our days with any earlier period in history seems senseless, as so many parameters have changed drastically, whether you take the Spanish flu, the great depression, the globalisation of the past decades or the financial crisis of 2008/9 as your point of reference,” the data analytics company says.

And yet, despite the daily retinue of terrible news most people still want to know what’s happening in their field of economic activity, “if only as some kind of background to the momentous things happening to us, or around us,” WorldACD writes.

As a way of trying to understand the developments better, WorldACD looks at the numbers from three different perspectives: A year-over-year (YoY) comparison, the month-over-month (MoM) changes between February and March, and the dramatic events within the month of March itself.

YoY – March 2020 vs 2019

After the 2.7 per cent drop in demand reported for the months of January/February combined, March recorded a decrease in chargeable weight of 17.7 per cent, in spite of the first week of March being the best week of the year so far. Asia Pacific (-12 per cent) and the Americas (-17 per cent) fell least, whilst Africa and MESA were hardest hit (-28 per cent and -32 per cent respectively).


A small increase in freighter capacity (+2.0 per cent) was more than offset by the sudden lack of cargo capacity in passenger aircraft (-39 per cent), causing yields to go up in most regions, most visibly for cargo originating in Asia Pacific.

In that region, unit prices in USD increased YoY by more than 1/3 (from China by even 2/3, getting up to an average of 3.58 USD/kg). In terms of revenues (in USD), the market from China to destinations in Asia Pacific stood out with an increase of 91 per cent, WorldACD says.

MoM – March vs February

Between February and March, freighter capacity increased by 29 per cent, whilst cargo capacity on passenger aircraft, unsurprisingly dropped by the same percentage. Changes in cargo carried were most conspicuous when looking at the results per type of airline.

Airlines flying freighters only, carried 42 per cent more cargo than in February, while airlines operating only passenger aircraft lost 22 per cent. The larger group of airlines operating both passenger aircraft and freighters, did not suffer a material change in volume. Not surprisingly, the cargo-only airlines improved their market share considerably, while recording a whopping 81 per cent growth in USD-revenues, the company says.

Forwarders from the World’s Top-20 had different experiences than the carriers however. The Top-10 as a group increased volumes by 3.0 per cent, though with individual performance ranging between -9.0 per cent and +16 per cent.

Individual performances in Tier-2 (the numbers 11-20 lost 2.0 per cent as a group), were much more divergent, ranging from -40 per cent to +117 per cent. The Top-10 slightly increased their share as they laid their hands on scarce capacity against a somewhat higher increase of charges than the increase recorded for Tier-2.

The many-faced March

“A month like no other in aviation history,” notes WorldACD, adding that it was month of “many completely different faces”.

worldACD march

Freight capacity fell by 28 per cent in two weeks’ time. Cargo carried on freighters was 3.5 per cent higher in the second half of March than in the first half. But freight carried on passenger aircraft was halved, causing the total freight carried to drop by 22 per cent from the first half to the second half of the month. Cargo carried from Africa and MESA fell by more than 30 per cent in two weeks’ time, Asia Pacific’s by less than 10 per cent.

Comparing the last week of March with the first, a mixed picture emerges. Cargo carried in the last week was 31 per cent lower worldwide than in the first week. Airlines from the Middle East were hardest hit with a volume decrease of 49 per cent. Cargo capacity on passenger aircraft virtually disappeared in the MESA region (-92 per cent). Asia Pacific airlines dropped least (-10 per cent). Airlines from North America lost 53 per cent in European markets, but airlines from Europe only 28 per cent in North American markets.

The volume of high-tech transported in the last week of March, was higher than in the first week. Fish & Seafood, Fruits & Vegetables and Flowers were hardest hit, with drops between the first and the last week of 41, 53 and 58 per cent respectively.

As for April, WorldACD warns further shake-up of markets “looks unavoidable”. The data analytics company will release its next update around 10 May.

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