Return of capacity and innovation crucial to air freight, says Logistics UK

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Zoe McLernon

Air cargo has played a vital role in supporting UK PLC throughout the pandemic, but its long-term value to the economy is dependent on capacity recovery and innovative solutions to efficiency, according to attendees at Logistics UK’s latest air freight webinar.

As Zoe McLernon, Logistics UK’s multi modal policy manager explains, attendees at the event, held on February 24, were positive about the future of air freight but remain concerned about the timelines for a return to normal flight patterns and progressing important innovation and research work:

“The majority of air freight is transported via the belly hold of passenger flights however, international passenger demand in 2020 was 75.6% below 2019 levels and as a result, freight capacity was significantly reduced.

“The sector is resilient and successfully adapted to new trading conditions at the start of the pandemic, with cargo-only movements increasing significantly with slot waivers allowing freighters more access to slots. And while this allowed the sector to continue servicing the nation and has been crucial to fighting the pandemic with air cargo used to transport PPE, pharmaceuticals and vaccines across the world, it is imperative that passenger flights are quickly restored once safe to do so, to ensure that the UK can continue to trade with its international partners as efficiently as possible.

“We have seen a positive increase in e-commerce which is crucial to strengthening the sector, however, the future return of passengers and therefore increased capacity, will prove essential to servicing this growth and aiding the recovery of the UK’s economy. There is already a lot of positive work happening in the sector, and focusing on the return of passenger flights, as well as new technologies such as warehouse automation and more sustainable aircraft, is vital.”