In the spotlight

posted on 4th March 2021
In the spotlight

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned attention on air cargo – and the role of digitalization to facilitate the transparency, efficiency and agility that have become a ‘conditio sine qua non’ in today’s processes, says Steven Polmans, chief customer officer at Nallian

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the spotlight on air cargo. While passengers remained grounded, cargo always kept on flying. For many logistic companies, 2020 has actually been a good year. This being said, our industry remains very much connected to what’s happening at the passenger side and as long as there’s no recovery on that end, we will continue to feel the impact. While many actors can absorb this as they are benefiting from higher yields, others can’t and they might potentially weaken the cargo value chain. But all in all, I think that as a sector we are doing ok.

Last year we said ‘the only thing certain about the future is that it’s uncertain’. This remains true today more than ever, with so many questions related to Covid-19: about the vaccines, about the vaccination programmes. Covid-19 may not change the outlook of the world, but it is definitely a catalyst that is accelerating and raising the bar for various things: think of the boost in e-commerce, telework, digitisation. We are taking a leap that would normally take us five years, and those new standards will remain the new normal also after the pandemic is over.

Digitisation is playing an important role in this new normal as it facilitates the transparency, efficiency and agility that have become a ‘conditio sine qua non’ (an indispensable condition) in today’s processes – also in air cargo. As a nice side effect, it also helps respecting social distancing norms by reducing physical touchpoints. With air cargo moving ‘front stage’ – because of its crucial role in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and because of the value it keeps on generating regardless of the drop in PAX – we notice a growing interest in adopting digitisation: to streamline today’s cargo operations, and to prepare for tomorrow.

I am expecting capacity to improve in the final quarter of this year and believe that by the end of the many lockdowns and restrictions, the economy will pick up and demand will rise. Until we achieve full recovery of capacity and demand, yields will probably remain higher than what we were used to pre-COVID.