Air Cargo Demand Grows in 2021
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Air Cargo Demand Grows in 2021

Photo by:   Patrick Campanale, Unsplash
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Sofía Hanna By Sofía Hanna | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Mon, 01/31/2022 - 15:10

The global air cargo sector closed 2021 with strong numbers and an increase in demand of 18.7 percent, reported the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This is the sector’s second biggest improvement in year-on-year demand since 1990. The global economy is expected to continue supporting air cargo growth and its cost-competitiveness relative to sea-container shipping.


While 2020’s air cargo figures were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021’s followed the normal pattern seen since 2019, according to IATA. “Air cargo had a stellar year in 2021. For many airlines, it provided a vital source of revenue as passenger demand remained in the doldrums due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Growth opportunities, however, were lost due to the pressures of labor shortages and constraints across the logistics system. Overall, economic conditions do point towards a strong 2022,” said Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA.


 The economic conditions that boosted air cargo growth include: 

  • Global goods trade rose 7.7 percent in November, compared to pre-crisis levels. Global industrial production was up 4.0 percent during the same period.
  • The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low. This is positive for air cargo as manufacturers use it to rapidly meet demand.
  • The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of sea-container shipping remains favorable.
  • The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in many advanced economies has created strong demand for PPE shipments, which are usually carried by air.


In North America, the international demand for air cargo grew by 20.2 percent in 2021 versus 2019, while capacity grew by 0.2 percent. In Latin America, however, international demand shrank by 15.2 percent in 2021 compared to 2019, while capacity fell by 30.2 percent.


In Mexico, air cargo grew by 30.4 percent in the first 11 months of 2021 in comparison to that same period in 2020, according to the Federal Agency of Civil Aviation (AFAC). The country is expected to continue growing in air cargo transportation especially once its airspace regains the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Category 1, which will allow for the opening of new routes between Mexico and the US.

Photo by:   Patrick Campanale, Unsplash

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