Summer 2021

Latest Issue

| 34

Summer 2021

Freighters have their time in the sun: While airlines, handlers, airports and others with significant exposure to passenger airline markets continue to suffer from the collapse in passenger demand, this year looks set to be another bumper year for cargo airlines. Many freighter operators have gone through a fairly difficult and volatile decade since the global financial crisis, as highlighted in the Special Report on Freighters within this issue (page 28). So, few will begrudge them their time in the sun.

As the interview with Cargolux CEO Richard Forson highlights in this issue (page 10), even last year began with cargo airlines bracing themselves for a possible slump. And despite a barnstorming 2020 financially, Cargolux is aware that the supply-demand balance could quickly change, as it has in the past.

Nevertheless, rates look set to stay high for much of this year, as export demand from Asia remains strong and capacity still constrained. But as the freighter report highlights, the longer-term picture for all-cargo aircraft is more complex – with environmental constraints one of several factors. New orders for production freighters have been strong so far this year, but mainly for smaller-gauge aircraft. Passenger to freighter conversions have stepped up a gear, but most operators are remaining cautious and seeking to avoid overordering.

With 747 production ending next year, the focus in the large widebody sector switching is largely to the 777, including the first 777-300ERSF, where delivery is now expected in 2023.

Meanwhile, strong inbound volumes on freighters have continued to put pressure on certain airports and cargo handlers and their facilities, especially in the US, as highlighted in the North America report (page 4). Cargo-focused airports have benefited from an influx of freighter services, and cooperation between cargo handlers has continued to help smooth out some of the volatility caused by the increase in freighter volumes.

On the technology side, the much-anticipated ONE Record project is making further progress, including a third trial by Cathy Pacific – which hopes to roll out ONE Record capability across its network in the second half of this year (page 38). And landside technology projects continue to make good progress.

The magazine’s Special Report on Cargo Drones highlights good progress also made by smaller cargo UAVs, although larger cargo drone projects are still struggling to get off the ground.

For the foreseeable future, cargo drones look set to be a final-mile solution, so air freight and cargo airlines need not worry about a threat from that side – for now. And probably not for a long time yet.

Editorial Content