Cargo Aviation Bulletin

Cargo sector shows resilience despite Covid-19 pandemic

Despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on global aviation, the cargo market appears to be the most resilient sector. In 2020 air cargo departures grew by 0.2% on 2019 levels, a stark contrast to scheduled commercial departures -50% YOY and business aviation departures -20% YOY.

North America and Europe dominate air cargo departures globally. Whilst the regional breakdown appears almost identical, departures from Asia grew from 10% in 2019 to 11% in 2020.

Chart 1 – 2019 Cargo departures by region (Source Flight Radar 24, WINGX)

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Chart 2 – 2020 Cargo departures by region (Source Flight Radar 24, WINGX)

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Chart 3 – Active aircraft performing cargo flights 2019 vs 2020 (Source Flight Radar 24, WINGX)

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The average number of active aircraft on cargo flights in 2019 was 1663, in 2020 that had increased to 1749 (5.2%). Chart 3 reinforces the idea that the cargo sector has shown resilience to the pandemic given how the number of active aircraft was higher for every month in 2020 compared to 2019.

Moving into 2021 there is further evidence of the cargo sector’s resilience. WINGX data shows departures in January & February 2021 are up by 8.6% compared to January & February 2020 and 4.8% compared to January & February 2019.

Chart 4 – Cargo departures for January & February period – 2021 vs 2020 vs 2019 (Source Flight Radar 24, WINGX)

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FedEx Express, United Parcel Service & DHL were the top three operators of cargo flights globally in 2019, 2020 and for January & February of 2021. From this it comes with little surprise that the top aircraft flown in 2019, 2020 and January & February 2021 were the Boeing 767-300, Boeing 757-200 and Airbus A300-600.


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