October demand nudges up, but rates soar


Air cargo rates soared again in October, although there were no clear signs of a surge in peak season demand for capacity, according to industry analysts, CLIVE Data Services. Demand for chargeable weight in October rose 3% over the same month of 2019 and was +14% higher than in 2020 year but CLIVE’s ‘dynamic load factor’ indicator – which measures both the volume and weight perspectives of cargo flown and capacity available to produce a true indicator of airline performance – remained lower than had been expected at 68%.

(CLIVE’s reports air cargo market performance to pre-Covid 2019 levels, as well as 2020 year-over-year comparisons, to provide meaningful analyses of the current conditions.)

Available capacity last month, while still down 13% versus October 2019, was up 17% compared to October 2020, but the dynamic load factor remained 3% below the level seen in the first month of Q4 2020.

But overall air cargo rates went up 155% and 37% in October 2021 versus October 2019 and October 2020 respectively.

As is often the case, CLIVE recorded significant market performance deviations. Flights ex Asia Pacific (APAC)-Europe remained virtually full to capacity, lifting rates by a further 20% over September 2021, while APAC-North America rates reached a double-digit level per kilo. Overall, international rates rose 10% month-over-month.

Load factors out of APAC westbound in October 2021 stood at 91%, while eastbound also produced an 89% increase. Some mid-tier markets in Asia, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, showed the highest spot rates – between US$9-10 per kg for spot shipments into Europe. In comparison, Hong Kong, in the last week of October, was close to 7 USD per kg.

“With load factors up 2% versus September, you can see the build up to the peak season but, admittedly, demand is not yet as high as some stakeholders had feared (or hoped). Capacity on a like-for-like basis (compared to September 2021) was more or less flat (up 1%) and, combined with a load factor of 68%, this does not seem to indicate the final sprint to the end of the year has started,” said CLIVE managing director, Niall van de Wouw. “October was a steady month in the market overall with some strong seasonality factors, but the dynamic load factor was lower than anticipated given the strong week-over-week increases we reported in September. A global dynamic load factor of 68% does show how efficiently the market is currently operating in terms of matching supply and demand.”

In its figures for September, published on the same day as CLIVE’s October  data, IATA said that demand continued to be well above pre-crisis levels and that capacity constraints persist. 

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), was up 9.1% compared to September 2019 (9.4% for international operations).

Capacity remains constrained at 8.9% below pre-Covid-19 levels (September 2019) ( or 12% lower for international operations).