There is nothing else to call 2020 but a complete catastrophe for the air cargo world. Demand for air cargo fell by greater than 10%. Air cargo does continue to be a driver of revenue considering the downturns in passenger travel, and has been a revenue lifeline for some carriers. What remains one of the key issues with the air cargo recovery is the issue of continued squeeze on cargo capacity. Cargo capacity on passenger flights are controlled by continued adjustments to schedules and restrictions due to Covid 19. Freighters are adding capacity but it is not enough to offset the decreased belly capacity.
Despite the issues around cargo capacity, air cargo is forecast to see some recovery in 2021. North America in particular has fared the best regionally and is expected to see increased growth in 2021. This is being driven in part by the continued rise of E-commerce during a pandemic that has seen extreme downturns in in person shopping and a move towards work from home. Manufacturing is experiencing a strong resurgence in Europe and North America and global trade is seeing an aggressive recovery.
Recent years have seen a turn towards a global interest in sustainability as issues around global warming continue to dominate the news. Airlines are following suite, with investments in more fuel efficient airplanes (FedEx and UPS) and/or development in programs to offset carbon footprints. (Delta) Route, weight and load optimization tactics are also being used to can lower carbon emissions and save money.
A crossover issue confronting both sustainability and digitization is the rise of e-freight. The air freight industry has seen the continued adoption of paperless bookings to both reduce carbon footprint and increase making the air cargo booking process as quick and efficient as possible. Air digitization is accelerating based on demand and Covid-19. And the desire and speed of adoption of customers using digital tools is thought to be highly underestimated. These methods will continue to be adopted at high levels if the industry puts them into place.