CEO Peter Gerber of Lufthansa Cargo does not think much of flight shame, brought increasingly on to the international agenda by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement and environmental organizations. His answer to the air transport industry critics: Only the most essential items such as medicines, pharmaceutical products, machine parts, and other urgent goods are sent as air freight, especially because of its high cargo rates. Without these precisely timed transport chains, manufacturers, consumers and entire economies would have a problem. That is why the industry does not need to be ashamed of its service - on the contrary.
It was a verbal onslaught that the head of Lufthansa Cargo fired off in front of the around 80 participants of the German Air Cargo Club (Air Cargo Association - ACD), triggered by a question
from the former ACD Chairman, Winfried Hartmann, from Airport Operator Fraport, who asked Gerber for a statement on the area of conflict between flying and climate protection.
Only the mad would choose air freight over sea freight if they have the option
Gerber’s answer: air cargo is 40 x more expensive than sea freight. Therefore, "only crazy people would have their products transported by airplane if the ship were an alternative," the manager, who is otherwise not inclined to showing such an emotional reaction, exclaimed. Ships are suitable for bulk freight or goods for which speed is not the primary consideration, but not for valuable special products for which air freight is the best option.
Addressing an imaginary Greta Thunberg in the room, the manager pointed out that only just under 2% of all products traded worldwide are flown, but that their value amounts to around 30% of all commercial goods. Peter Gerber also sent another message to the young Swede: His company's ongoing commitment to more environmental protection. For example, by replacing its ageing fleet of MD-11 freighters, with fuel-efficient and less climate-damaging Boeing 777Fs. By the end of 2020, the airline will operate a uniform fleet of Boeing 777 freighters, of which nine will bear the traditional Lufthansa livery, while four more are operated by joint-venture partner AeroLogic (confirming what CFG already reported on 07NOV). In other respects, too, environmental protection is high on the cargo airline's agenda when it comes to decisions and daily actions, and not just since the Fridays for Future activities.
Deng Xiaoping vs Mother Teresa
After the Greta chapter, the manager uttered another unexpected message: "Deng Xiaoping has done more for humanity than Mother Teresa." Namely by the fact that the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party has freed millions of people from poverty through his far-reaching economic reforms.
Which that, Gerber continued with the topic of the future of air freight. This was hopeful, at least in the medium to long term. His arguments: Extreme poverty, caused by unequal income distribution in many countries, has fallen from 51 percent in 1980 to 13 percent today. "And this with globally rising population figures".
The UNO classifies a person as extremely poor if they have less than two US dollars a day to live on.
Technological progress, patents and inventions will lead to new products being created, of which many will be high-quality, thus boosting air freight.
Hope is on the horizon
Despite recent downturns, globalization will continue to grow and so will the volume of trade worldwide. As seen, for example, in the demand for new, technologically improved mobile phones, which are already used by 7.7 billion people today, meaning that these people are online and can order products at the same time.
According to Gerber, air cargo is therefore a stable market with stable growth prospects.
At least in a little while, because at the moment it looks bleak. The cargo crane reports a decline in tonnage of 8.9% in 2019. “It was a lousy year for airlines, which unfolded much worse than expected,” he concludes.
Yet, he already sees a light on the horizon for 2020. “We expect a moderate upswing, because the Brexit uncertainty is over, and the U.S. seems to be moving forward with China on trade issues.” In addition, U.S. President Trump is aiming for re-election. This suggest that he is unlikely to start any new tariff disputes with Europe and other important trading partners, that would also harm the American economy and thus tip the mood of U.S. citizens to his disadvantage.
Asked by CargoForwarder, if Lufthansa Cargo will end the 2019 fiscal year with a deficit, Gerber simply answered drily: “I did not say that!”
Footnote: We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic