I read on https://twitter.com/RichardBarrow/status/1250298370469416960 (mirror):

40% of the world’s air cargo is shipped on passenger planes.

Is that true?

  • 1
    Is there some reason to doubt this? Apr 15, 2020 at 15:54
  • 1
    @DanielRHicks I thought cargo planes transported a fair amount of merchandise while passenger planes mostly focused on passengers. Apr 15, 2020 at 15:55
  • I suspect that restrictions and increased fees for baggage are because cargo is profitable. That could be another Question. Apr 15, 2020 at 18:06
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    Keep in mind that many smaller airports do not have regular cargo plane flights. And for mail and other "rush" items passenger flights are more frequent and hence faster. Apr 15, 2020 at 21:33

1 Answer 1


By weight (I'm not finding handy data in terms of value) that's about right but a little on the low-end.

According to Statista, 52% of air cargo by weight was transported in the bellies of passenger planes in 2016.

The IATA (see page 17) says that about 28M tonnes of air freight was carried by passenger planes, or about 45% of world total, in 2018.

If that seems surprising, keep in mind that the vast majority of freight is moved by surface, not air. Air is expensive and only used when the greatest possible speed is required. That applies to passengers and high-value perishable goods, but not most items that make up the bulk of international trade.


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