The future calls

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In the spotlight now more than ever, the industry must move forward with the lessons learnt from the past year in an efficient and sustainable way. Last month, TIACA called for action to address critical challenges being faced by the air cargo industry. Two of the main topics were the route to digitalising the industry and progressing to make the industry more sustainable.

Robert Jubb, director of Freight UK, Air Partner and Dave Connor, board member at The Air Charter Association gave insight as to how the charter sector is responding.

ACW: How is the charter sector responding to the call to digitalise the industry?

Connor: Whether it’s market disruptors such as app-based platforms that integrate freight forwarders and air cargo operators, or internal processes, which streamline freight movements and airline operations, the spectrum of digitalisation and changes within this sector is broad.

The air charter sector has adapted very quickly to changing circumstances, whether through pandemic-related consequences or complex trading arrangements and customs processes that emerged post-Brexit. This resilience, and the sector’s vital importance to the economy, continues to solidify as businesses look to leverage data and automation. To an extent, the rapid onset of remote working has forced a re-think of stakeholder/customer and supply chain management, with a view to embracing technology and the further adoption of simplified processes and digital transformation.

Jubb: Digitalisation is helping to shape the future of the industry. Reliance on paperwork – and in some countries especially where original paperwork is required, works against the time-saving and effectiveness of the airfreight industry. Freight forwarders, carriers and industry specialists that become more reliant on digitalisation will undoubtedly see advantages in the coming years. The industry is taking great and necessary leaps forward with digital transformation strategies, investing in cloud services and automatic data management.

ACW: How is the charter sector responding to the call to make the industry more sustainable?

Connor: The charter industry has been actively working towards sustainability for years. Aircraft and specifically engine design has improved greatly, with big improvements in efficiency and aerodynamics as well as use of technology in more direct routing of aircraft and noise impact of approach & departure profiles. Early initiatives have been focused on carbon offsetting with some companies offsetting double or more of the CO2 generated by their flights.

More recently as the availability of quality sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) has increased, air charter operators have been adopting this to make further great strides to improve their overall sustainability. The industry is also well known for its early adoption of new technologies. It is almost certain that as the hybrid, electric and other renewable energy powered aircraft are ready to fly, air charter operators will be the first to bring these through into service. Our Sustainability & Innovation Group, alongside our NextGen Group, is working to educate and create opportunities for our members to support and develop their sustainability initiatives.

Jubb: The industry continues to develop aircraft and engine design to increase fuel efficiency and to reduce CO2 emissions, and it supports the wider use of sustainable aviation fuels. Over the past 50 years, aircraft have reduced their noise output by 75% and this progress continues. Airspace modernisation is enabling more efficient climb and descent operations to reduce engine use and therefore noise pollution. On the ground, airports, airlines and ground-handlers are developing and trialling low-emissions vehicles. Aerospace manufacturers are already investing in the next generation of engines and aircraft, with research in to hybrid-electric and fully-electric planes underway.

Air Partner is working on a group-wide ESG strategy, which will incorporate carbon offsetting, reducing internal waste of resources, transparency of communication, and meaningful partnerships with relevant charities. We are committed to working with a supply chain that operates as sustainably as possible.