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Nordic Air Cargo Symposium: Sustainability and freighter concerns in focus 

Nordic Air Cargo Symposium: Sustainability and freighter concerns in focus 
The Nordic region maintains a dynamic air cargo market

“Sustainability is getting ever more important but…” and “national carriers are not interested in freighters” were two key takeaways from the Nordic Air Cargo Symposium (NACS) in Stockholm this week (22-23 April). 

Lars-Gunnar Comen and Euroavia with NACS proudly celebrated “50 events in 25 years” in a great setting at the harbor front Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Quite an achievement!  

The event was grand, not only due to its location, but also because it brought together the Nordic air cargo community for updates on the latest news and networking opportunities. 

The most significant takeaways from the discussions, aside from air cargo tending to be “business is what happens to you now while you are busy trying to make longer plans”, was a growing understanding that, yes, sustainability is important, but what do we mean with sustainability?  

Do we mean environmental or societal sustainability? Yes, aviation has high per kg CO2 emissions and enough sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to mitigate the industry’s carbon footprint, but it is not going to be available for the foreseeable future and alternative propulsion methods even further away.  

At the same time, for example, around two million Kenyans are reliant on flower exports that require air transport. Many countries are striving to develop their economies and are depending on quick and effective transport. What is more important?  

Of course, CO2 emission reduction is important, but meaningful phase planning, considering the maturity of alternatives and societal consequences, is missing, and at the same time consumers seem not overly bothered and prefer to save money rather than pay extra for a greener solution. For the air cargo industry, it is quite an important item to address both internally and externally before business and, frankly speaking, societal damage is done. 

The “Tuesday shocker” to most was probably the blunt statement by the heads of cargo at Finnair and SAS that, “no”, they have no interest in freighters. Both executives are relatively new to their roles, having transitioned from the passenger side of the airline business.  

This suggests they may not yet fully appreciate the role that freighters play in building hubs, serving regional business needs (e.g. the massive Norwegian salmon export or ecommerce in-flows) and supplying passenger aircraft networks. A positive take-away for foreign carriers already offering substantial freighter capacity. The decision comes at a time when the closure of Russian airspace is complicating business, as the most direct flight path between northern Asia and Europe is currently unavailable.  

Certainly, digitalisation continues to be a critical topic of interest for all stakeholders, but it’s not one that comes with easy solutions due to the vast number of participants in a highly fragmented and complicated supply chain. Example: Trade compliance/sanction checks is this considered in the digital booking stream via various platforms or is this left for a later stage possibly resulting in bookings being rejected late and load optimization not getting to where it should be? Just a small example.  

While integrators and major e-commerce players like Amazon and Cainiao excel in digitalisation, they also control the entire end-to-end service execution. 

Nevertheless, the Nordic region maintains a dynamic air cargo market with multiple airports boasting excellent infrastructure to support these operations.