July gains in cargo movements came despite belly capacity on flights still drastically reduced. The industry would see that as a big positive. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Middle East carriers managed some gains in their cargo volumes during July compared with June, spelling out more hope for an industry that is picking up the pieces from the COVID-19 hit. Along with them resuming more passenger services, it is hoped they can see some drastic improvements during the crucial fourth quarter.

In July, seasonally-adjusted demand for cargo was actually up 7.2 per cent month-on-month – and was the best among all regions. “This recovery was driven by the aggressive operational strategies of some of the region’s carriers,” says IATA in its latest monthly update.

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In a year-on-year comparison, Middle East carriers reported a decline of 14.9 per cent drop off in international cargo volumes in July. But that is still an improvement from the 19 per cent fall in June.

The International Air Transport Association finds that overall global cargo demand is “stable”, but at lower levels than in 2019. “While there is some month-to-month improvement, it is at a slower pace than some of the traditional leading indicators would suggest,” the report adds. “This is due to the capacity constraint from the loss of available belly cargo space as passenger aircraft remain parked.”

Drastic cut

In fact, belly capacity for international air cargo movements was down a substantial 70.5 per cent in July compared to same period in 2019, from the “withdrawal of passenger services amid the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“This was partially offset by a 28.8 per cent increase in capacity through expanded use of freighter aircraft,” IATA adds.

“Economic indicators are improving - but we have not yet seen that fully reflected in growing air cargo shipments," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director-General and CEO. "That said, air cargo is much stronger than the passenger side of the business.

"And one of our biggest challenges remains accommodating demand with severely reduced capacity. If borders remain closed, travel curtailed and passenger fleets grounded, the ability of air cargo to keep the global economy moving will be challenged.”