Freighters have their time in the sun: While airlines, handlers, airports and others with significant exposure to passenger airline markets continue to suffer from the collapse in passenger demand, this year looks set to be another bumper year for cargo airlines. Many freighter operators have gone through a fairly difficult and volatile decade since the global financial crisis, as highlighted in the Special Report on Freighters within this issue (page 28). So, few will begrudge them their time in the sun.
As the interview with Cargolux CEO Richard Forson highlights in this issue (page 10), even last year began with cargo airlines bracing themselves for a possible slump. And despite a barnstorming 2020 financially, Cargolux is aware that the supply-demand balance could quickly change, as it has in the past.
Nevertheless, rates look set to stay high for much of this year, as export demand from Asia remains strong and capacity still constrained. But as the freighter report highlights, the longer-term picture for all-cargo aircraft is more complex – with environmental constraints one of several factors. New orders for production freighters have been strong so far this year, but mainly for smaller-gauge aircraft. Passenger to freighter conversions have stepped up a gear, but most operators are remaining cautious and seeking to avoid overordering.
With 747 production ending next year, the focus in the large widebody sector switching is largely to the 777, including the first 777-300ERSF, where delivery is now expected in 2023.
Meanwhile, strong inbound volumes on freighters have continued to put pressure on certain airports and cargo handlers and their facilities, especially in the US, as highlighted in the North America report (page 4). Cargo-focused airports have benefited from an influx of freighter services, and cooperation between cargo handlers has continued to help smooth out some of the volatility caused by the increase in freighter volumes.
On the technology side, the much-anticipated ONE Record project is making further progress, including a third trial by Cathy Pacific – which hopes to roll out ONE Record capability across its network in the second half of this year (page 38). And landside technology projects continue to make good progress.
The magazine’s Special Report on Cargo Drones highlights good progress also made by smaller cargo UAVs, although larger cargo drone projects are still struggling to get off the ground.
For the foreseeable future, cargo drones look set to be a final-mile solution, so air freight and cargo airlines need not worry about a threat from that side – for now. And probably not for a long time yet.
Featured in this issue
High volumes and traffic spikes stretch capacity to the limits
Strong demand for freighter services has brought new opportunities for cargo airlines and cargo-specialist airports, although a variety of Covid-related changes has led to operational challenges for c...Read More
Hermes and Nallian link up to offer cargo GHA landside solution
Collaboration aims to provide handlers with a data-driven approach to freight management that drives operational efficiencies, enables better planning, and facilitates coordination with freight forwar...Read More
Heavy freight UAVs still some way from takeoff
Lightweight cargo drone projects targeting the healthcare and e-commerce sectors have gained further momentum in the past 18 months, with large cargo drones facing bigger challenges getting off the gr...Read More
Freighter shift to cargo-focused airports accelerates
Moves by air cargo carriers and forwarders towards non-passenger hub airports precedes the pandemic. But Covid-19 has sped that transition, reports Will Waters The shift towards freighter services ...Read More
Freighter markets adapt to a new era
The current soaring demand for all-cargo aircraft comes as the first 777-300ERSF aircraft prepare to make their debut, 747 production ends, and e-commerce fulfilment demand exerts an ever-greater infl...Read More
Amid the chaos of last year, Cargolux achieved an extraordinarily strong set of results in its 50th anniversary year, and that success is continuing. But CEO Richard Forson is aware it’s not always ...Read More
Covid vaccine delivery: Applying the lessons learned
Although some of last year’s initial concerns were overstated about the capacity of the sector to meet the vaccine logistics challenge, air freight’s role will continue and expand in the coming mo...Read More
Cathay pushes ahead with third IATA ONE Record trial
The airline’s next objective is to introduce the ‘Virtual Shipment Record’ for all shipments across its global operations, with the carrier now hoping to support implementation with forwarders w...Read More
Brucargo ‘Digital Green Lane’ project targets further cuts to truck waiting times
WFS joins stakeholders piloting a new Road Feeder Management App to digitally improve the efficiency of the interface between trucking operators and handling providers Worldwide Flight Services (WF...Read More