Spring 2021

issue 33

The air freight market has stabilised considerably since the extraordinary disruption last year, and volumes transported worldwide have more or less recovered to 2019 levels. An estimated 2,000 pax planes are being used as ‘preighters’, with 250-300 partially converted by having seats removed and tracks installed to cater for cargo.

But it remains a highly disrupted, volatile and uncertain market. Cargo airlines may be prospering from high demand and prices, and some specialist cargo airports they serve. And freight forwarders continue to make money. But for many airlines and airports, and the cargo handlers and other suppliers that serve them, this is clearly still an exceptionally challenging situation.

Cargo handlers face a long list of extra issues, including staff challenges linked with Covid, demand surges, changing airline schedules and contracts, the additional handling requirements of ‘preighters’, greater numbers of freighters, large numbers of smaller shipments, and new consignees unfamiliar with air freight practices. Greater cooperation among cargo handlers and cargo communities has helped limit some of these issues, one positive from this crisis.

The rollout of Covid vaccines offers some prospect of passenger flights returning, but how fast and to what extent remain unclear. With the ocean freight market also disrupted, modal shift looks set to boost air freight volumes for some time, along with rising e-commerce and healthcare-related traffic. A shortage of capacity not demand will likely limit air freight for the immediate future, notes Sebastiaan Scholte (page 36) in his new role as GSSA, with yields higher than pre-Covid levels for the next few years.

Another positive from this generally miserable crisis is the further acceleration of digitalisation, discussed on page 18. Some benefits are already emerging, with much more to come – including potentially the ‘virtual integrator’ model some believe air freight deserves (page 60).

Meanwhile, air freight’s vital role in this crisis continues and evolves. Concerns about capacity or the ability to keep vaccine product temperatures stable have lessened, and new air freight container and product launches can facilitate its distribution (page 4), along with impressive collaboration initiatives across the sector.

Air freight has continued to adapt and keep vital goods flowing, as it did last year. And as commentators in the Outlook 2021 Report observe (pages 30-59), its role has become far more valued – by airline and airport boards, and throughout society. As TIACA’s Glyn Hughes highlights in a recent EVA podcast with Chris Notter, this surely makes air logistics a more visible career choice for younger people – something this sector has been discussing for many years.

But in the meantime, it’s busy managing the global air logistics situation. And doing a pretty good job of it.

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Featured in this issue

  • A relationship business

    Despite the extraordinary current pressures, Cathay Pacific’s new cargo director Tom Owen, formerly the group’s head of people, stresses the importance of long-term partnerships with customers ove...

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  • African air cargo navigates through Covid turbulence

    Lockdowns, curfews and capacity cuts have challenged air cargo stakeholders throughout the continent in the past year, with freighter operators profiting at the expense of passenger capacity providers...

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  • Air freight’s post-pandemic opportunity

    Covid-19 has accelerated digitalisation and our appreciation of its value. Those who understand that ‘information is power’ and react now to research, respond and invest can be ready, when supply ...

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  • Building a resilient cargo ecosystem

    Shipment visibility and connectivity has become more important than ever during this unprecedented period, which is best achieved through a community approach, believes Lim Ching Kiat, managing direct...

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  • Cargo team spirit

    Global cargo players have been working especially closely together since last year, and that collaboration has paid off, says Pierre Dominique Prümm, executive director for aviation and infrastructur...

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  • Catalyst for a major re-set

    The accelerated growth of e-commerce means it really is time to change air freight’s traditional working methods, abandon paper-based processes, and embrace supply chain digitisation, says Wilson Kw...

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  • Change on the horizon

    This crisis is an opportunity to make air cargo visible, attractive, smart, and sustainable, believes Celine Hourcade, managing director of Change Horizon and former head of cargo transformation at IA...

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  • Coming to the forefront

    In a post-pandemic world, quickly moving from paper-based processes to the digitalisation of the entire industry will be the key issue – and the past year has provided a glimpse of what is possible,...

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  • Contributing to the COVID-19 economy

    Air cargo industry has played a vital part in the fight against the pandemic; it will play a vital part in the COVID vaccination challenge, and in the subsequent economic resurgence, observes Glyn Hug...

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  • Digital momentum

    Covid-19 and e-commerce have accelerated the drive towards digitalisation, with government agencies also increasingly facilitating the shift to paperless air cargo processes. And with the benefits of ...

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  • Emerging stronger

    With 2021 set to be another challenging year, operators must stay agile and resilient to decisively adapt to changing trends, believes Dnata’s VP for UAE cargo, Bernd Struck 2021 will be another ...

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  • Extraordinary times

    Selected international air freight stakeholders from across the sector share their reflections and expectations for 2021 2020 was quite some extraordinary year, and one that I am fairly sure none o...

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  • Flexibly navigating in disrupted markets

    Mike Short, president of global forwarding at C.H. Robinson, discusses how recent and current air and ocean freight market conditions are affecting cargo owners’ shipping decisions Global transpo...

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  • From fridge to freezer

    Covid-19 has seen stakeholders throughout the pharma cool chain make rapid changes to how they maintain the temperature and stability of life-saving vaccine products, reports Roger Hailey From frid...

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  • From the ground up

    Improving the air cargo industry first and foremost means improving ground processes with digital solutions, but also in customising and modernising the facilities accordingly, believes Dorothea von B...

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  • High demand and rates set to persist

    The current low stock of freighter capacity and buoyant demand mean we can expect elevated prices to continue during 2021, possibly even beyond, believes Pierre Vanders, director for cargo operations ...

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  • Hoping for less growth this year

    While 2020 was a record year for freighters and for Liege Airport, VP commercial Steven Verhasselt hopes for everyone’s sake that the airport’s health hub can be turned back into a passenger termi...

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  • 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 toda...

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  • Long-term benefits from short-term problems

    The need for contactless cargo and remote working have forced through technological advancements that have kept the industry connected, changed our ways of working, and delivered significant time savi...

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  • Managing the biggest ever disruption

    It’s difficult to talk about the legacy of Covid when its consequences are still at the forefront of everything we are doing, notes Barry Nassberg, group chief commercial officer for Worldwide Fligh...

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  • Meeting demand, delivering vaccines

    The rapid and secure distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will be a key priority this year, to get people and communities back on their feet, rebuild consumer confidence and economic activity, and suppor...

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  • Necessary innovation

    Roger Samways, vice president commercial for American Airlines Cargo, believes a renewed focus on digitalisation – ‘born out of necessity and the agile mindset we all had to develop last year’ ...

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  • Priority business

    The new US administration must recognise air freight’s vital role in the current crisis, prioritising airport cargo workers for Covid vaccinations and supporting airport cargo infrastructure, argues...

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  • Rising to multiple challenges

    Alongside maintaining its cargo network to a greater extent than most carriers over the past year, Qatar Airways has also moved forward with several freight digitalisation initiatives such as Robotic ...

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  • The courage to invest

    With air freight being tested more than ever before, the sector needs to find the courage to invest in technological solutions to drive progress, believes Moritz Claussen, co-founder and managing dire...

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  • The long haul

    A likely long-term decline in business travel will lead to less intercontinental wide-body ‘cargo friendly’ belly capacity in the coming years, which will keep yields higher than pre-COVID levels ...

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  • Better together

    Now, more than ever, the sector needs to collaborate in setting up standards and systems for reliable service delivery – to develop and implement a variety of products that meet their customers’ v...

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