CharterSync will be ringing in the new year with a completely new and upgraded platform for digitally booking and managing cargo charters.
Simon Watson, director of CharterSync, tells ACW that the new system is a complete rewrite from the ground up and will be launched in Q1 of 2022.
“Over the last two and a half years of trading, we’ve done about two and a half thousand to three thousand charters,” he says.
“We’ve learnt a lot in those charters. We initially launched our product focussing on time critical movements in Europe as we felt that most catered to the use of our technology, which speeds up the traditional process. A traditional broker could take 15- 20 minutes to get an option and our system can create options for the client within three minutes.”
Watson says the new system will build on this experience and technology to cater for a broader range of charter requests.
“The new system will allow us to work with any type of client across any charter vertical and also work with any type or category of airline or aircraft operator anywhere in the world,” he explains.
The new system comes at a time when airfreight charter business is booming, with ChaterSync timing their breakthrough into the market perfectly to ride the surge in charter demand that has been spurred on by the pandemic.
“The last 24 months have been crazy. We launched the product and the company pre-Brexit, then we had Covid and now we have this capacity crunch, so a lot of the scheduled cargo has moved into charter.
“Trading-wise we have been profitable since we very first started as a business and we forecast to continue to be profitable.”
The pandemic turned the traditional office working dynamic on its head, which Watson says gave CharterSync an advantage in the market.
“What’s been interesting is that pre-pandemic we saw some forwarders say they wouldn’t mind working with their brokers in the traditional process.
“But now what has happened is that trying to source aircraft has been highly difficult. It all comes down to the sharing of information, and technology has been fantastic at communicating and sharing essential information.
“For traditional brokers, who are sort of companies in their own right, operating within a brokerage , they have their own client base and manage their own requests. When they started to work from home it became quite difficult to manage and share availability across teams.
“For us, we have one central system and it doesn’t matter where everyone is working, so it played to our advantage that we could share so much information with data available at the team’s fingertips,” explained Watson.
As technology advances, will there ever be a need for human brokers? Watson says the answer is complex but he believes that human brokers are needed within forwarding companies, acting as a CharterDesk internally and will always exist in that market.
“This actually ties in with the product we will be launching next year called CharterDesk. Our CharterDesk product is for global freight forwarding clients that have an in-house charter desk and can manage the charter process themselves. These clients can use CharterDesk to find the best cargo charter options and manage the charters themselves across their teams.
“Good communication is imperative when it comes to managing a charter. Actually, it’s amazing how many multimillion pound deals are made over WhatsApp. The communication tool in our system allows clients to centralise all this communication with the benefit of added security.”
Notably, cargo’s digitalisation has been particularly slow but is now gaining momentum. On the other hand, the passenger side, including the private jet sector, has been switched on for some time, which Watson puts down to the fact it is a business to consumer market.
“High net worth individuals especially are used to on-demand booking of services such as Ubers and the like and they’re more open and accepting of digitalisation,” he says.
“In logistics, I think there’s been two or three years that there’s been a real digitalisation drive and in that respect we timed our business launch well.
“Some of the slow uptake could be put down to “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mentality and maybe the pandemic has shown flaws in this. It’s also shown that the charter market is vitally important to global trade.
“In the cargo charter market there’s always been an acknowledgment that digitalisation is the future but nobody quite knew how to execute it. For me, coming from a tech aviation background, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner,” he says.
“It has been a difficult process and a steep learning curve, so in a way I can see why people haven’t done it!”
With the current capacity issues that are facing the industry, cargo charters have relieved the high demand for space but whether the reliance on charters is here to stay is up for debate.
“I would say the current issues have put charters to the forefront. Traditionally, clients would ask to be quoted for a scheduled airfreight option or a next flight out option but less so a charter option, unless just to compare rates. I suppose that up until Covid most clients wouldn’t have chartered because they wouldn’t have had the need to.
“We would obviously like the demand to continue but realistically I think that the demand will probably drop down to pre-Covid or slightly above. Charters are only cost effective when the per-kilo rate is better than the airfreight option or if the schedule is better.
“What I think could help keep charters stimulated is providing better access to those charter options for clients.
“To find airfreight you can go to cargo.one or WebCargo by Freightos. Providing something similar to find the indicative price of the charter option to compare against, would instantly make charters more accessible to forwarders and therefore clients and end shippers.”
Passenger freighters, or ‘preighters’ as they’ve been dubbed, have also relieved some pressure throughout the pandemic and Watson says these may be here to stay.
“I think that preighters had never been considered as way for passenger airlines to make use of unused capacity. I think now clients will always look to see if they can make use of unused capacity. From a passenger airline perspective they might be more open to making some extra revenue as aircraft only make money when they’re in the air.
“Another trend I think is here to stay is the strengthened carrier – forwarder relationship. It will be the future of how many forwarders will operate in the charter sector going forward through an in-house charter desk.”