While passenger airlines are constantly having to revise and reduce their flight schedules as, coupled with a greater reluctance to travel by air, more and more restrictions come into play, and belly capacities are disappearing, some freight forwarders are starting to find their own air transport solutions.
CargoFacts Consulting recently published an article bearing the headline “2020: Year of the Freighter,” and certainly – looking at the rapid increase in freighter movements recently, as
China’s production returns to between 50%-80% levels, this may well be the case. The recent gap of 39% (or even 59%, depending on which source you consult) less cargo capacity to China needs
filling. Some airlines, such as Lufthansa Cargo, are keeping their older planes in service to maximize on the current situation, as freight rates triple. Others, such as Cathay Pacific, are using
their empty A330 passenger flights as temporary, additional freighters between Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, making up at least a third of the capacity offer that an equivalent freighter
version would offer.
China’s CAAC is also looking to incentivize passenger airlines to take up operations again, after its six weeks of shutdown, as all Chinese airports except Wuhan, operate normally. (According to CAPA, 04MAR20, the bonus – paid out until 30JUN20 - which qualifying international airlines operating direct flights to China will receive, is CNY0.0176 per available seat kilometer for routes operated by multiple airlines, or CNY0.0528 per available seat kilometer for routes that operated by a single airline.) Yet, whether people are willing to travel – or even to allowed to travel, given the increasingly global shutdowns – remains open. So, cargo capacities remain strained.
Bolloré was the first to move
For a couple of forwarders, these capacity constraints and high rate increases have led them to come up with their own solutions. Bolloré Logistics, who keep a comprehensive corona update on their website, recently published the following under the Airfreight section for China: “Except for Chinese airlines, oversea airlines have suspended passenger flights to/from China until end of March. Our core freighter carriers have also significantly reduced their regular schedule as well. The capacity constraints result in the rate hike ex Europe to China. The charter solutions offered by Bolloré Logistics are addressing this difficulty and helping our customers to have earlier arrival to China to tackle their supply chain needs.” They offer a link to their published flight plan: Appendix: Bolloré Logistics – COVID-19 Air Charter Solutions
The weekly B747F charter operations from Luxembourg to Shanghai, have been running since the start of February and are likely to continue through to April. A spokesperson for Bolloré said that the company was monitoring developments, and also offering intra-Asia charters between China and Southeast Asia: “Customers are extremely pleased that we proactively offer them solutions with a blend of regular hard block capacities and charters offer.”
Dachser follows suit
In a similar vein, Dachser Air & Sea Logistics has planned a charter schedule between Frankfurt, Germany, and Shanghai, China to commence 16MAR20 and to run until the end of the month. The chartered 747s will be employed to create an air bridge between the U.S., Latin America (São Paulo/Guarulhos, Santiago, Lima, Ezeiza International, Mexico City), and Dachser’s air freight gateway in Frankfurt for deliveries to Shanghai, China, offering “an intelligent solution for transport needs in transpacific trade and responding to the current market situation with flexible solutions” according to the company website.
Dachser’s Head of Global Air Freight, Timo Stroh, explains: “This program puts us in a position to offer a robust and reliable premium air service to Asia for our customers in the Americas as well,” says Timo Stroh. “We are ready for whatever happens on the air freight market in the coming weeks, and fully appreciate being in a position to tackle the challenges of the future today.”
“The new coronavirus is still having a serious impact on capacity in the air freight market. Because the situation is so volatile, capacity planning is becoming a real challenge.”
So, it would appear, certain freight forwarders are rising to the challenge themselves, and mutating into temporary cargo airlines.
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