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Air cargo traffic - worldwide revenue 2004-2021

In 2020, despite the coronavirus outbreak, the cargo airline industry generated revenue streams of 117.7 billion U.S. dollars.

Air cargo and the COVID-19 pandemic

Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the global air cargo industry demonstrated a confounded business performance. Although the level of air freight volume declined, the total revenue generation increased. While passenger aviation was hit harshly and swamped by the deteriorating business conditions, the global air freight volume decreased by roughly 20 percent in March 2020 compared to March 2019 levels. Contrary to intuitive beliefs, widely imposed lockdowns across countries and declining industrial production during the coronavirus pandemic did somewhat positively affect revenue levels of the air cargo market. During 2020, the air cargo companies generated higher revenue than expected, which could be mostly driven by the rising prices for rapid transport of goods on airplanes. For example, the number of cargo flights in China and Germany increased during March 2020 compared to months before the COVID-19 hit widely.

Airfreight forwarding

The process of facilitating the transportation network of freight by air is the main task of airfreight forwarders. With the help of freight forwarders, industrial organizations design business operations across the globe. Consequently, airfreight forwarders are one of the facilitators of the increasingly interconnected international trade relations. Although a multitude of companies strives to achieve more and more market share in airfreight forwarding, some are more successful than others as a result of a well-developed business strategy. As of 2019, DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding, Kuehne +Nagel, and DB Schenker Logistics were the three leading airfreight forwarders based on the volume of freight handled. Advancements in global trade creates an incentive for an expansion of opportunity space for air freight forwarders. By 2024, the size of the total freight forwarding market, including airfreight, is expected to reach 178 billion U.S. dollars, which is a 23 percent increase from 2018 levels.

Worldwide revenue of cargo airlines from 2004 to 2021

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Release date

November 2020



Survey time period

2004 to 2020

Supplementary notes

* This figure was taken from a previous edition which was released prior to the coronavirus outbreak and can be accessed here.
** Forecast
*** Estimate
Figures prior to 2015 were taken from previous reports.

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Statistics on "Air transportation worldwide"

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