Middle East air freighters warned of ‘significant exposure’ to Covid-19 impact

Optimism from the easing in trade tensions between the US and China is eclipsed by coronavirus, says IATA boss


The Middle East’s role in connecting trade between China and the rest of the world leaves air cargo operators in the region ‘significantly exposed’ to the impact of Covid-19, the industry’s leading body has warned.

Cargo volumes among Middle East airlines decreased 1.4% in January compared to the same time last year, according to new data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

While IATA said it was unlikely that the virus outbreak had much to do with January’s weak performance, it warned that the market could be impacted by the virus in the months ahead.

IATA’s monthly report revealed that demand across global air freight markets, measured in cargo tonne kilometers (CTKs), decreased by 3.3% in January.

“January marked the tenth consecutive month of year-on-year declines in cargo volumes,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO.

“The air cargo industry started the year on a weak footing. There was optimism that an easing of US-China trade tensions would give the sector a boost in 2020. But that has been overtaken by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has severely disrupted global supply chains, although it did not have a major impact on January’s cargo performance.

“Tough times are ahead. The course of future events is unclear, but this is a sector that has proven its resilience time and again.”

IATA said that the market’s February performance will give a better picture of how Covid-19 is impacting global air cargo.

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