Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for August 2021 for global air cargo markets, showing that demand has continued its strong growth trend but pressure on capacity is increasing.

As comparisons between the 2021 and 2020 monthly results are skewed by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons below are for August 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTK *), is up 7.7% compared to August 2019 (8.6% for international operations). Overall growth remains strong compared to the long-term average growth trend of around 4.7%.

  • The pace of growth slowed slightly from July, which saw demand rise 8.8% (from pre-COVID-19 levels).

  • The recovery in freight capacity paused in August, down 12.2% compared to August 2019 (-13.2% for international operations). In monthly terms, capacity fell 1.6% – the biggest drop since January 2021.

Economic conditions continue to support air freight growth, but are slightly weaker than in previous months, indicating that global manufacturing growth has peaked:

  • The August manufacturing output component of the Purchasing Managers’ Indexes (PMI) was 51.9, indicating a short-term increase in demand if these orders are shipped by air. This is down from 54.4 in July.

  • The August new export order component of PMIs was favorable to air freight, although it was less favorable than in previous months. The expansion continued globally, however, there was a contraction in emerging economies.

  • The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak of the year-end retail season. This is good for air freight, but other capacity constraints put this at risk.

Demand for air freight had another strong month in August, up 7.7% from pre-COVID levels. Many economic indicators point to a strong peak season at the end of the year. International travel still being severely depressed, there are fewer passenger planes offering belly up and supply chain bottlenecks could intensify as companies continue to ramp up production, ”said Willie Walsh , Director General of IATA.

August 2021
% vs AOT 2019

sharing the world1



CLF (% – PT)2


Total market 100% 7.7% -12.2% 10.0% 54.2%







Asia Pacific












Latin America






Middle East






North America






(1)% of industry CTK in 2020 (2) Change in load factor compared to same month in 2019 (3) Level of load factor

August regional performance

Asia-Pacific Airlines saw their international air cargo volumes increase by 3.0% in August 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This was a slowdown in demand compared to the 4.4% expansion of the previous month . Demand is affected by a slowdown in the growth momentum of key business indicators in Asia and congested supply chains, particularly on intra-Asia and Europe-Asia routes. International capacity is severely limited in the region, down 21.7% from August 2019.

North American carriers recorded an 18% increase in international freight volumes in August 2021 compared to August 2019. New export orders and demand for faster shipping times underpin North American performance. The risk of lower capacity constraints is high; international cargo capacity remains limited and many of the major air cargo hubs report severe congestion, including Los Angeles and Chicago. International capacity fell by 6.6%.

European carriers saw a 6% increase in international freight volumes in August 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This matches the performance of July. Manufacturing activity, orders and long supplier delivery times continue to support demand for air freight. International capacity decreased by 13.6%.

Middle Eastern carriers saw a 15.4% increase in international freight volumes in August 2021 compared to August 2019, an improvement over the previous month (13.4%). The major Middle East-Asia trade routes continue to perform well. International capacity decreased by 5.1%.

Latin American carriers reported a 14% drop in international freight volumes in August compared to the period 2019, which was the weakest performance of any region. Capacity remains significantly limited in the region, with international capacity declining 27.1% in August, the largest drop of any region.

African airlines saw international freight volumes increase 33.9% in August, the largest increase of any region. Investment flows along the Africa-Asia route continue to drive regional results with volumes on the route up 26.4% from two years ago. International capacity decreased by 2.1%.

Air freight in the spotlight

Download the Complete Air Cargo Market Analysis for August 2021

For more information please contact:

Business communication
Phone. : +41 22 770 2967
Email: [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

  • * Please note that from January 2020 we have clarified the terminology of industrial and regional series from “Freight” to “Cargo”, the corresponding metrics being FTK (modified to “CTK”), AFTK (modified to “ACTK” ) and FLF (changed to “CLF”), to reflect the fact that the series consisted of freight (freight plus courier) rather than freight only. The data series themselves have not been modified.

  • The IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines representing 82% of global air traffic.

  • You can follow us on for announcements, policy positions and other useful industry information.

  • Explanation of measurement terms:

– CTK: freight tonne-kilometers measure actual freight traffic

– ACTK: available freight tonne-kilometers measure the total available freight capacity

– CLF: the load factor of the cargo is the% of ACTKs used

  • IATA statistics cover international and domestic scheduled air cargo for IATA member and non-member airlines.

  • The total freight traffic market share by region of carriers in terms of CTK is: Asia-Pacific 32.6%, Europe 22.3%, North America 27.8%, Middle East 13.0%, America Latin 2.4% and Africa 2.0%.


IATA – International Air Transport Association published this content on September 29, 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on September 29, 2021 09:21:04 AM UTC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.