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Airfreight faces uncertain future, says forwarder

[ May 25, 2021   //   ]

The airfreight market still faces great uncertainty, despite the return of scheduled passenger flights, says logistics provider Freightline Carriers.

It predicts that passenger flight numbers will remain at a reduced amount, while demand for cargo may increase, leading to a shortage in capacity for air cargo of around 12-13%.

While belly supply will increase, it is not expected to reach pre-Covid levels for at least a few years.

The airlines themselves also face cashflow problems. IATA recently downgraded its outlook for the year, saying it expects the industry to have negative cash flow through 2021 after previously estimating airlines would collectively break even in the fourth quarter.

Recent IATA data shows that demand for the global air cargo market has recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Many airlines have utilised their main passenger cabins as cargo space for over a year, helping to plug the shortfall but as passengers return, they will once again occupy  seats.

Airline must also navigate challenges including airport curfews, border restrictions and flight time limitations. Crew may be subject to extensive quarantine and testing regulations.

As countries change regulations, sometimes with minimal warning, this could wreak havoc on cargo.

Freghtline managing director, Sav Aulakh, commented: “There is no denying how difficult the last year has been for the industry as a whole but we are slowly seeing signs of recovery. And with that comes the need to look ahead, past Covid…For the aviation industry, in particular, there is a lot of opportunity at the moment to better prepare themselves for that future. As we’ve seen over the last year, passenger aircraft can be used to transport cargo when passenger flights are impossible. Investing in this idea of the ‘Preighter’ now while demand for cargo is so high would allow airline operators to investigate short- to medium-term opportunities to boost their cargo services without the risks involved in maintaining a larger dedicated freighter fleet.”

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