The rise of the cargo charter

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Dave Connor


Since the beginning of the pandemic, the charter industry has stepped up to fill capacity constraints that have challenged the cargo sector.

Dave Connor, board member, The Air Charter Association (ACA) and Robert Jubb, director of Freight UK, Air Partner explained to ACW why the momentum behind charters will continue post-COVID.

Robert Jubb

“We have seen a huge surge in dedicated air cargo charter activity since the pandemic began which has clearly been influenced by reduced levels of underbelly capacity on passenger routes, coupled with the need to facilitate urgent shipments of medical supplies and equipment,” said Connor.

“As passenger belly capacity is restored to pre-pandemic levels, the momentum we have all seen will begin to slow but we foresee that the need for dedicated air cargo charters will remain elevated. Our expectation is that this will prove vital in supporting newly established routes or underserved markets, as well as compensating for the seismic shift in e-Commerce and consumer behaviour during the past 18 months.

“Furthermore, as global economic activity increases, we believe this will have a positive impact on charter activity in other areas of the supply chain, such as the automotive industry, where currently, the sector has been stifled by global semi-conductor shortages and stalled manufacturing output.”

Jubb added: “Capacity itself is not likely to return to pre-pandemic levels for a substantial amount of time – perhaps up to five years. Carriers that can offer substantial cargo-only solution are currently enjoying amplified rates from the lack of capacity, and this is likely to continue. We predict that a significant number of businesses that have switched to air cargo services for speed during the pandemic will continue to use these services, because they appreciate the reliable and swift, frequently bespoke, service it provides.”

Resilience and innovation

Connor noted that the industry has demonstrated great ‘resilience’ and ‘innovation’ this past year.

“The air cargo industry is and always has been vital to the global economy and is a key component of supply chains for all industry sectors. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that without essential and vital transportation links, the world’s countries, cities, towns and societies within them, would not have received the supplies we take for granted on a daily basis, let alone life-saving medical supplies and vaccinations. Cargo charter will remain a key component of supply chains and will continue to adapt as consumer and industry demand changes.”

“The perception of air cargo has shifted across multiple industries, where businesses have used charter services for the first time. What was previously perceived as an overly-expensive service, is now seen as a time-sensitive, reliable and agile method of transportation,” said Jubb.

Diversification

“The industry has demonstrated great resilience and innovation over the last 12-18 months, with many companies diversifying from their historical core business to respond to ever changing demand. It has been wonderful to see the critical part that cargo charter flights have played in bringing huge quantities of PPE and vaccines into the country, as well as medical passenger charters and repatriation flights to bring nationals overseas back to their home countries, and a huge uplift in charters to support industry supply chains. It is the wide range of critical support that the industry has provided throughout a most challenging period that demonstrates the importance of our sector.”