Summer 2022

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Summer 2022

It’s been another challenging few months for air freight, as the sector navigates an uneven and unpredictable recovery from the pandemic around the world – amid rapidly rising fuel and other costs and an uncertain economic outlook. High on the lists of challenges currently is staff recruitment and retention, particularly at a ‘blue-collar’ level. What was already a competitive field has become a major headache in many markets. And the progressive exit from pandemic lockdowns and the corresponding recovery in air passenger demand and capacity has brought further complications – and in some cases staff shortfalls have limited growth opportunities and impacted operational quality.

Companies are having to be creative and intelligent in attracting and retaining employees whose employment expectations in many cases have changed, as several articles within this issue of the magazine highlight – such as the interview with Dnata CEO Steve Allen (page 28). That includes making companies forward-facing, good employers that are investing in innovation, technology, sustainability, people and infrastructure.

It’s a challenge for most air freight stakeholders, including suppliers and customers – as is access to and rising costs of materials throughout supply chains, including the ULDs that air freight relies on, highlights Unilode’s Ross Marino (page 14). Meanwhile, the digitalisation of ULDs continues, as does the development of the use cases for the data that this provides, and the resulting potential opportunities to further streamline air freight operations.
And as larger cargo drones get closer to commercial launch (page 46), so the potential use cases for those evolve – increasingly towards middle-mile logistics and the supply of remote or island communities.

Strong demand for freighter capacity continues (page 20), heightened by the continuing shortfall of passenger belly capacity and now also the loss of Russian-owned capacity from western markets triggered by Russia’s brutal military invasion of Ukraine. Although capacity is set to stay tight this year, some fear that bulging orderbooks for P2F conversions and production widebody models could lead to oversupply in the mid-term.

But in the meantime, cargo facility investments are surging at hub and second-tier airports in some markets such as North America (page 38) in response to congestion issues, rising freighter activities, and the need for modernisation. But it partly also reflects the strength and stability of air cargo’s performance compared to passenger air services in the last two years, which has made it a relatively safe bet for investors.

Two years of extreme volatility have been tough for everyone. But it has also left cargo-oriented airlines – and others – with a greater appreciation of strong, stable and professional cargo handling partners that are willing and able to invest in their facilities, systems, standards and people.

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