The air cargo market is beset by “a great deal of uncertainty and volatility”, with two distinct trends emerging in recent months.
Air imports to Europe, especially from the Asia Pacific region, have been depressed as a result of Covid lockdowns and the knock-on effects on trade from some major Chinese cities, notably Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Concurrently, export markets from Europe, especially westbound to North America, have performed strongly.
We’re experiencing flat growth at the big European import hubs for air cargo from China – Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Liège and Luxembourg – in contrast to strong growth from France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and the UK.
Shanghai plans to ‘unlock’ in June, but airlines have very little spare capacity to deploy, so it will take some time to clear the backlog.
Congestion was a problem at the major European hubs in Q1 but has eased. If volumes from eastern China recover quickly, more bottlenecks at air cargo hubs in the Middle East and Europe are expected.
Demand will likely slow in the second half of the year, with consumers cutting back on discretionary purchases as more of their budgets go on energy, food and fuel. If this is sustained, the air cargo market will enter a downward cycle.