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

Release Number: 
BTS 12-21
Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2021

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
January6.510.64.9-1.4
February6.29.3-0.4-0.4
March8.05.7-0.3-1.4
April2.55.74.5-1.3
May11.09.03.11.2
June6.95.6-1.29.5
July7.26.63.612.8
August10.44.80.25.7
September4.74.9-4.518.6
October11.15.7-1.213.0
November10.8-0.7-2.213.0
December5.50.20.716.9
Annual7.65.40.57.3
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
January4.610.36.20.5
February4.99.00.71.9
March7.03.9-0.23.4
April1.34.98.23.8
May10.79.04.64.7
June5.24.60.713.3
July5.26.76.715.8
August9.74.70.27.2
September3.34.1-2.821.7
October11.16.11.714.3
November11.4-0.4-1.613.6
December4.70.14.615.9
Annual6.65.02.49.8
 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
January11.911.31.5-6.7
February9.810.2-3.4-6.7
March10.710.6-0.5-13.6
April5.87.7-4.5-15.4
May11.98.9-1.0-8.4
June11.78.4-5.7-0.7
July12.56.5-4.14.5
August12.45.30.11.6
September8.46.8-8.810.5
October11.24.6-8.79.5
November9.1-1.5-3.711.4
December8.10.4-10.720.1
Annual10.26.4-4.20.4
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 International Market
* December data is preliminary

Reporting Notes

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial U.S. air carriers detailing operations, passenger traffic and freight traffic. This release includes data received by BTS from 15 U.S. airlines as of Feb. 4.

See the BTS Airlines and Airports page for additional U.S. airlines numbers through November for U.S. airlines. International data by origin and destination is available through August.

None of the data are from samples. Measures of statistical significance do not apply to the complete air traffic data.

 
 
 
 
 
Updated: Wednesday, February 17, 2021