With this year’s broadly worldwide air cargo downturn showing no imminent signs of ending, a question posed in the last issue of this magazine continues to resonate: Will companies continue to invest in modernisation and digitalisation, despite the downturn?
My conclusion in that previous issue was that they will, if only because digital transformation has become much more affordable, and the benefits clearer. Speakers at this year’s Air Cargo Handling Logistics conference reinforced that view, for example within a discussion about the expected evolution of the sector over the next decade, as highlighted in the ACHL report in this issue (page 4). Mark Albrecht from United Airlines also underlined that the finances of the major airline groups are much more stable than they were a decade ago, thanks to industry consolidation. A growing appreciation of the revenue and profit value of cargo to combination carriers, and a move towards investing to improve yields – and away from simply hard cost-cutting – has further supported the more positive investment climate for air cargo.
It was observed that the full value of air cargo is often not appreciated by airports, in part because airlines and their representatives have never systematically communicated this, nor presented meaningful data to illustrate this value. As a result, some airports remain unclear where to direct investments in cargo, or whether it is worth investing in at all.
But help is coming: IATA’s ICHC in September asked some of its airline members to gather and present information illustrating the value of cargo to airlines, and potentially also to wider airport cargo communities. Meanwhile, some more cargo-aware airports that have invested time and money in identifying those benefits may also wish to share their findings – something the ICHC would welcome.
On the digitalisation side, the interview with Henrik Ambak on page 20 highlights some ongoing frustrations about the continuing challenges of e-freight – notably a lack of perceived benefits from the eAWB when other paper documents are still required in many markets. In the next issue, I want to talk with some of the sector’s most proactive eAWB participants about the benefits they perceive.
Meanwhile, certain areas of air freight continue to see positive developments – as highlighted, for example, in the Africa report on page 14 and the Perishables report on page 40. And the ULD update on page 32 explores the game-changing potential of Bluetooth-backed tracking and monitoring of cargo.
E-commerce traffic also continues to grow, as highlighted in the Hactl interview on page 48 – which also underlines the benefits of a systematic approach to efficiency improvement via the Hong Kong cargo handler’s dedicated Productivity Enhancement team.