Spring 2024

Latest Issue

| 45

Spring 2024

Cross-border e-commerce logistics has been expanding rapidly in the last decade to become a very significant part of the air freight market, estimated to be around 20%, and its fastest-growing segment. And in an overall global air freight market that has been flat or in decline for much of the last 18 month, the continued growth of e-commerce traffic has focused minds even more clearly on satisfying its needs.
As highlighted in the E-commerce report on page 6, air cargo stakeholders have accelerated their efforts to adapt to this vertical’s evolving needs. And the return of bellyhold capacity since the end of the Covid pandemic has encouraged some major cross-border e-commerce shippers to turn again to a ‘supply direct from China’ model, requiring further adjustment by air cargo stakeholders.
Beyond investment in specialist facilities and capabilities, the growth of this segment has other implications for the market – including because e-commerce brands are prepared to pay a premium for air freight services. By absorbing a substantial portion of the capacity and influencing global pricing levels, it potentially squeezes out or makes it more challenging for traditional cargo customers to find capacity, at peak times or on certain lanes.
As highlighted in the North America report on page 14, the growth of e-commerce traffic and other special cargo verticals has increased the pressure on airport facility planners to respond to the changing requirements of these sectors. In locations where facilities handle traditional freight and have been specifically adapted to accommodate e-commerce traffic, the diverging requirements require a balancing act. As one cargo handler observes in that report, companies like Amazon and USPS want dedicated space, ‘so it de-synergises your warehouse space’. Although it is ‘a very different model’, in another way it’s no different from other types of specialist cargo that require dedicated facilities.
Meanwhile, there’s an AI theme in two specific technology-focused articles. In the Technology Interview article on page 20, Raft’s Lionel van der Walt highlights how several factors are driving a new phase of digitalisation within logistics, especially the growing power and acceptance of AI and impending sustainability reporting. And in the Innovation Insights article on page 26, Sabari Ramnath from Unisys outlines how ‘conversational AI’ can bridge the gap in personalisation within online booking platforms that can lead to forwarders and airlines manually booking cargo shipments.
Last but by no means least, this issue also contains the annual Outlook report, in which selected senior executives and organisations involved in air freight reflect on their experiences of the last 12 months and share some expectations for 2024. As ever, we are grateful for their thoughtful contributions.

Editorial Content