The pandemic may have nearly decimated passenger airlines, but air cargo carriers have been reeling in the business. Considering all the PPE supplies, as well as e-commerce and products resulting from increasing global production taking to the skies, demand for air cargo services has reached record highs.

Air Cargo 2021: PANDEMIC leaves residual mark on sector

International Air Transport Association (IATA) data shows that in March, air cargo tonne kilometers (CTKs) flown rose 4.4% above the pre-crisis March 2019 level. Air cargo data services firm CLIVE reports that for April, air cargo volumes increased 78% over April 2020 and 1% over April 2019 (pre-COVID) figures. CLIVE also found that continued market uncertainties and extended public holidays contributed to a -4% drop in global air cargo demand in May 2021 versus the pre-pandemic level in 2019.

High demand for cargo space created capacity constraints and consequential high rates. And while it appears the height of the pandemic crisis is over, Castle warns that shippers most likely won’t see relief from elevated rates until demand and available capacity level out.

“I’ve been in the business for more than two decades, and I can’t remember when rates have stayed elevated and capacity remained tight for so long,” adds Castel.