IATA data for global air cargo markets showed lower growth in November 2021, due to supply chain disruptions and capacity constraints. 

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs*), was up 3.7% compared to November 2019 (4.2% for international operations). This was significantly lower than the 8.2% growth seen in October 2021 (9.2% for international operations) and in previous months.

Capacity was 7.6% below November 2019 (-7.9% for international operations). This was relatively unchanged from October. Capacity remains constrained with bottlenecks at key hubs. 

Economic conditions continue to support air cargo growth, but supply chain disruptions are slowing growth. IATA stressed that several factors should be noted. Among these are:

labour shortages, partly due to employees being in quarantine; insufficient storage space at some airports; and processing backlogs exacerbated by the year-end rush. Several key airports, including JFK, Los Angeles and Amsterdam Schiphol, have reported congestion.

“Air cargo growth was halved in November compared to October because of supply chain disruptions. All economic indicators pointed towards continued strong demand, but the pressures of labour shortages and constraints across the logistics system unexpectedly resulted in lost growth opportunities.

“Manufacturers, for example, were unable to get vital goods to where they were needed, including PPE. Governments must act quickly to relieve pressure on global supply chains before it permanently dents the shape of the economic recovery from COVID-19,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.  

To relieve supply chain disruptions in the air cargo industry, IATA is calling on governments to ensure that air crew operations are not hindered by COVID-19 restrictions designed for air travellers. It is also calling for the implementation of the commitments governments made at the ICAO High Level Conference on COVID-19 to restore international connectivity, including for passenger travel. This will ramp-up vital cargo capacity with “belly” space.

Further requests made by IATA include the provision of policy incentives to address labour shortages where they exist, and support for formation of the World Health Organization / International Labour Organization Action Group to assure freedom of movement for international transport workers.