31 Mar 2020
As a global pandemic takes hold, and almost every region faces lock-down, we explore how cargo and commercial aircraft sectors are responding to the crisis.
After some challenging years post the 2009 financial crisis, the air cargo market had recovered and was on track to grow 4.2% over the next 20 years, with the world freighter aircraft fleet set to grow by more than 75%. Asia was continuing to lead the world in average annual air cargo growth, supported by faster-growing economies and the growing needs of expanding middle classes.
That was before the global crisis of COVID-19, which has radically reshaped it all. Many countries are closing their borders, travel demand has fallen away and, as a result, airlines have suspended flights and grounded passenger aircraft.
Globally, airlines have cancelled more than 185,000 flights since the end of January, according to IATA. Whilst passenger demand may have fallen, the need to carry freight has not and is arguably more important than ever in keeping supply chains open at this time of global uncertainty. Air travel remains critical to keep the world’s population supplied with those essentials that would not reach their destination by other means of transport.
The underlying issue is that just about every passenger flight also carries freight, and with those flights removed, congestion is building up in the air cargo market. This has driven increases in shipping costs, and transit times have broadly doubled, as more consignments have to wait their turn to be loaded onto available aircraft.
However, airlines are responding with an agile approach. Carriers such as Korean Air, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, and Qantas have already chosen to utilise passenger planes to work as freight-only aircraft by loading the cabin compartment with cargo as well as hold.
This flexible response to the market has two objectives: first, it relieves growing shipping congestion caused by accumulating cancellations of passenger flights; and second, it generates revenue for carriers hit hard by the fall in travel demand.
With this ‘passenger-to-cargo’ business shift, companies such as AJW, who provide component parts supply and MRO to both passenger and cargo airlines are enhancing their support to carriers operating in this new passenger / freight configuration.
As a world-leading specialist in component management and one that works with many leading air cargo operators, AJW has the proven track record to help airlines in this new mode of operation. We already work with operators such as Air Bridge Cargo, Silkway, Southern Air, Fedex, DHL, UPS as well as smaller operators such as Jet Time, and the cargo divisions of major carriers such as British Airways Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo and Cathay Pacific Cargo.
The principle services provided by us for freighter aircraft is in supplying spares and product support services (including maintenance, repair and overhaul services), and lease programmes, with the main difference over passenger aircraft operations being that hours tend to be lower as cargo aircraft tend to fly at night, so the logistics differ, although in these unprecedented times this could all change.
In a crisis situation like the current one, where agility, strong partnership, and proven experience are key, we are the ideal partner for the growing number of air cargo operations across the globe, supporting their vital role as a critical part of the global transport infrastructure.
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