Africa boasts fastest recovery in air cargo, but with fewer passengers
Demand for air freight hit an all-time high worldwide in March, with African airlines recording the fastest recovery, where freight volumes rose 24.6% from the period leading up to the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, according to a report by Business Insider South Africa.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) confirmed in recently released data that Africa’s international cargo tonne-kilometers (CTK) increased by 22.4% in January, 44.2% in February and 24 , 6% in March.
This increase, especially in February, was seen due to increasing demand along the Africa-Asia trade routes. This more than doubled in February compared to the same month in 2019.
The freight industry boasts an impressive recovery in the first quarter of 2021 after the depressing drop in global air freight volumes in 2020, when it fell 10.6%, which happens to be the biggest drop in 30 years.
Air freight volumes surpassed pre-pandemic levels set in January when tonnes of revenue freight carried by distance flown surged. Since then, African airlines have pledged to publish the earnings they enjoy each year.
North American and Middle Eastern airlines have also recovered well. In contrast, European and Asia-Pacific air freight has seen slow growth, with CTKs hovering just above the levels they were at before the pandemic attack. Latin American carriers have yet to rebound and are the only airlines to report a consecutive reduction in CTK in 2021.
IATA CEO Willi Walsh said that while recent data inspires optimism with the recovery of the freight industry, freight alone cannot save struggling airlines.
The outlook for the global airline industry launched by IATA in April 2021 indicates that “cargo strength will be insufficient to compensate for weak passenger market.”
âOverall, airline operating revenues will increase this year by 23%. But this is only 55% of 2019, which adds to the challenges for the industry to stop the consumption of cash. “
Revenue passenger kilometers (RPK), which shows the kilometers traveled by passengers who have paid, are falling month-to-month even though Africa has shown a sharp recovery in demand for air freight.
Traffic is still below pre-pandemic levels by around 73.7%. “This marked a deterioration from a 72.3% drop recorded in February compared to February 2019,” IATA said.
Africa’s RPK levels remain higher compared to global growth rates, standing at 87.8% in March compared to 2019. However, if the local COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not fast enough, then the continent’s recovery rate could be overtaken by the international recovery.
“Africa has relaxed restrictions on international travel more than in other regions, but vaccination is very slow, which is likely to limit the rebound in international markets,” IATA said.