Heathrow needs a new runway, Priority Freight urge

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The expansion of a new runway capacity at Heathrow Airport is essential to the future success of UK exporters, in the view of most freight forwarders.

Priority Freight general manager at Heathrow, Kevin O’Shea explains that a third runway is vital for the business so it can grow its airfreight sector.

“The expansion of the airport [Heathrow] is vital if we are to maintain our position as a leading contingency logistics and compete with European airports for new routes and services and also to maintain existing ones,” O’Shea tells Air Cargo Week.

The Priority Freight site is located in close proximity to London’s Heathrow and the forwarder moves more than 80 per cent of the cargo is processed through airfreight.

O’Shea says after a slow start to the year, the air cargo segment is “starting to come alive” and he adds: “Customer confidence is high, coupled with ever increasing competition between the carriers, creating the right conditions for airfreight to thrive.”

He explains that the most buoyant trade lane is the Far East, which is booming due to overcapacity and ‘all in’ rates are now becoming the norm on imports as well as exports.

As for the types of cargo which are performing strongly for Priority Freight, O’Shea says: “Even with low rates and plenty of capacity there is still high demand for time-definite guaranteed products, for which a premium can still be attracted.”

There are challenges for the forwarders using air to transport goods, which are becoming greater as global security issues become tighter, in the view of O’Shea.

He says: “More and more controls are being added and only those companies who can demonstrate security integrity within their entire supply chain will continue to prosper.”

On the whole, O’Shea speaks positively about the air cargo supply chain and he feels in the main, freight forwarders needs are being met such as through online bookings and electronic air waybill’s. He says the move by airlines towards a paperless environment, can only be a good thing for his firm in terms of both costs and resourcing.

But he adds: “More needs to be done to address the age-old problem of driver waiting time and response-to-damage claims.

“Carriers should refund freight companies for any excess waiting time and have a charter for customer complaints and claims.”

The mode battle with sea freight continues, and the air cargo industry has to focus on some areas where sea has stolen a march.

O’Shea agrees, but is happy with air cargo: “

Quality of airfreight is good overall, but sea freight companies have taken massive strides in recent years, notably with technological developments including [services like] online tracking and rate options available at the click of a button.”

There are clearly some areas where the air cargo supply chain needs to focus on to boost relationships in the future with freight forwarders.