U.S. Airlines Carried 17% More Cargo in December 2020 Than in December 2019

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U.S. airlines carried 17% more cargo by weight in December 2020 (preliminary) than in December 2019. The rise was fueled by gains of 16% in domestic cargo and 20% in international cargo, according to data filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by 15 of the leading U.S. cargo airlines.

Graph - U.S. Airline Cargo December 2020

U.S. Airlines Carried 17% More Cargo in December 2020 Than in December 2019

Bureau of Transportation Statistics;

U.S. airlines carried 17% more cargo by weight in December 2020 (preliminary) than in December 2019.  The rise was fueled by gains of 16% in domestic cargo and 20% in international cargo, according to data filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by 15 of the leading U.S. cargo airlines.

The 15 airlines carry 95% of the total cargo by weight on U.S. airlines. Cargo data consists of freight and mail carried within the U.S. and between the U.S. and foreign points.

December 2020 (preliminary) air cargo numbers for 15 U.S. carriers:

Total: 1,854 thousand tons, up 16.9% from December 2019 (1,587T tons) Domestic: 1,420 thousand tons, up 15.9% from December 2019 (1,225T tons) International: 434 thousand tons, up 20.1% from December 2019 (362T tons)

For the pandemic period of May 2020 through December 2020, U.S. airlines carried 1,339 thousand more tons of cargo than in the same period in 2019, up 11%.  They carried 13% more domestic cargo and 6% more international cargo.

For the full year 2020, U.S. airlines carried 1,276 thousand more tons of cargo than in 2019, up 7%. They carried 10% more domestic cargo and less than 1% more international cargo.

U.S. airline traffic reports are filed monthly with BTS. Final December data will be released on March 11. Complete international data by origin and destination, which is under a six-month confidentiality restriction, will be release on June 10.

Systemwide Cargo (Domestic + International)

December 2020 cargo:  1,854T tons

Change from December 2019:  +16.9%

Change from November 2020:  +12.1%

Recent high: October 2020 (1,728T tons)

Recent low: February 2020 (1,297T tons)

Table 1: Systemwide Percent Change in U.S. Airlines Cargo by Weight from the Same Month of the Previous Year 2016-2020

Cargo = Freight + Mail

 Year-to-Year Percent Change

 2016-20172017-20182018-20192019-2020
January 6.5 10.6 4.9 -1.4
February 6.2 9.3 -0.4 -0.4
March 8.0 5.7 -0.3 -1.4
April 2.5 5.7 4.5 -1.3
May 11.0 9.0 3.1 1.2
June 6.9 5.6 -1.2 9.5
July 7.2 6.6 3.6 12.8
August 10.4 4.8 0.2 5.7
September 4.7 4.9 -4.5 18.6
October 11.1 5.7 -1.2 13.0
November 10.8 -0.7 -2.2 13.0
December 5.5 0.2 0.7 16.9
Annual 7.6 5.4 0.5 7.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 Market

* December 2020 data is preliminary

Domestic Cargo

December 2020 cargo:  1,420T tons

Change from December 2019:  15.9%

Change from November 2020:  +17.7%

Recent high: October 2020 (1,282T tons)

Recent low: February 2020 (977T tons)

Domestic as percent of total cargo December 2019:  77.2%

Domestic as percent of total cargo December 2020:  76.6%

Table 2: Domestic Percent Change in U.S. Airlines Cargo by Weight from the Same Month of the Previous Year 2016-2020

Domestic cargo has a U.S. origin and U.S. destination

Cargo = Freight + Mail

Year-to-Year Percent Change

 2016-20172017-20182018-20192019-2020
January 4.6 10.3 6.2 0.5
February 4.9 9.0 0.7 1.9
March 7.0 3.9 -0.2 3.4
April 1.3 4.9 8.2 3.8
May 10.7 9.0 4.6 4.7
June 5.2 4.6 0.7 13.3
July 5.2 6.7 6.7 15.8
August 9.7 4.7 0.2 7.2
September 3.3 4.1 -2.8 21.7
October 11.1 6.1 1.7 14.3
November 11.4 -0.4 -1.6 13.6
December 4.7 0.1 4.6 15.9
Annual 6.6 5.0 2.4 9.8

 Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 Domestic Market

* December 2020 data is preliminary

International Cargo

December 2020 cargo:  434T tons

Change from December 2019:  20.1%

Change from November 2020:  -2.8%

Recent high: November 2020 (447T tons)

Recent low: February 2020 (319T tons)

Domestic as percent of total cargo December 2019:  22.8%

Domestic as percent of total cargo December 2020:  23.4%

Table 3: International Percent Change in U.S. Airlines Cargo by Weight from the Same Month of the Previous Year 2016-2020

International cargo on a U.S. airline is carried between a U.S. airport and a foreign airport.

Cargo = Freight + Mail

Year-to-Year Percent Change

 2016-20172017-20182018-20192019-2020
January 11.9 11.3 1.5 -6.7
February 9.8 10.2 -3.4 -6.7
March 10.7 10.6 -0.5 -13.6
April 5.8 7.7 -4.5 -15.4
May 11.9 8.9 -1.0 -8.4
June 11.7 8.4 -5.7 -0.7
July 12.5 6.5 -4.1 4.5
August 12.4 5.3 0.1 1.6
September 8.4 6.8 -8.8 10.5
October 11.2 4.6 -8.7 9.5
November 9.1 -1.5 -3.7 11.4
December 8.1 0.4 -10.7 20.1
Annual 10.2 6.4 -4.2 0.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 International Market

* December data is preliminary

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