Back to top

Image: Bigstock

Upbeat Air-Cargo Demand Bodes Well for Airlines: An Analysis

Read MoreHide Full Article

Even though there has been an uptick in air-travel demand (particularly for leisure) in various parts of the world, the same lies way below the pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, demand for business travel is still very anemic. This is exemplified by the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) April report on air-travel demand.

Per IATA, total demand for air travel in April 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 65.4% from the April 2019 reading. Even though the scenario pertaining to domestic demand improved in April from the March levels, international passenger demand continued to be lackluster with a massive 87.3% plunge from the Apr 2019 actuals.

Given this scenario, passenger revenues, which account for bulk of the top line at most airlines across the globe, remain weak and are unlikely to recover to the pre-pandemic levels any time soon.

Focus on Cargo Unit: A Saving Grace

With passenger revenues lagging the 2019 levels, despite the recent improvement, airlines are focusing on their cargo units to drive the top line. The coronavirus-induced cancellation of multiple passenger flights aided the air-cargo markets to be in the pink of health across the globe as demand in the said space is moving northward.

Per IATA report, global air-cargo demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers, was up 12% in April 2021 from the April 2019 reading and 7.8% from the March 2021 levels. The strongest performance came from the North American carriers. Notably, carriers from that zone contributed 7.5 percentage points to the overall 12% growth rate.

The highly impressive April performance of the North American airlines is basically an extension of their upbeat show on this front during the March quarter. Evidently, cargo revenues surged 88.3% year over year to $497 million at United Airlines (UAL - Free Report) in first-quarter 2021. At American Airlines (AAL - Free Report) , the same soared in excess of 100% in the January-March time frame. Cargo revenues increased 12% at Delta Air Lines (DAL - Free Report) . All three carriers currently carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see  the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Apart from the North American carriers, airlines in other parts of the world except those in Latin America (including the likes of Gol Linhas (GOL - Free Report) Azul (AZUL - Free Report) and Copa Holdings (CPA - Free Report) , exhibited higher air-cargo demand for the month of April. For example, European carriers, that include Ryanair Holdings (RYAAY - Free Report) among others, displayed an 11.4% jump in cargo demand during April 2021 from the April 2019 levels.

To Wrap Up

With passenger revenues unlikely to return to the pre-pandemic levels, at least in the near future, we expect airlines to continue laying an emphasis on cargo revenues to bump up their top lines. Notably, IATA expects cargo revenues to surge to $152 billion in 2021 from $128 billion in 2020 and $101 billion in 2019.

Air-cargo demand should continue to be solid. Precisely, the gradual improvement in global economic conditions and supply-chain dynamics could constantly support the uptick in air-cargo demand.

+1,500% Growth: One of 2021’s Most Exciting Investment Opportunities

In addition to the stocks you read about above, would you like to see Zacks’ top picks to capitalize on the Internet of Things (IoT)? It is one of the fastest-growing technologies in history, with an estimated 77 billion devices to be connected by 2025. That works out to 127 new devices per second.

Zacks has released a special report to help you capitalize on the Internet of Things’s exponential growth. It reveals 4 under-the-radar stocks that could be some of the most profitable holdings in your portfolio in 2021 and beyond.

Click here to download this report FREE >>