The road ahead to the post-Covid-19 air cargo environment is still bumpy, TIACA’s director-general Glyn Hughes declared at a recent webinar organized by Air Cargo Belgium. The ‘good old days’ are a thing of the past.
Mr Hughes took up the position of TIACA Director General at the beginning of this year. It is another step in a career that has spanned 37 years; the last 7 of which as IATA’s Global Head of
Cargo. His contribution was part of the webinar “BRUcargo post-Covid-19: clear skies after the turbulence.” The other panelists focused mainly on the Brussels/Belgium situation.
Mr Hughes recalled that aviation was one of the worst hit sectors in this pandemic. Air cargo demand, measured in Cargo Ton-Kilometers (CTK), dropped by 11.8% over 2020, and by 68% in the passenger segment. Capacity, measured in Available Cargo Ton-Kilometers (ACTK), fell by 24%.
Vaccine distribution brought unprecedented challenge
On the debit side, cargo has responded well to the capacity crisis, Mr Hughes said: “Firstly, through the optimization and utilization of freighters; some of which have been brought back from retirement or parking. Secondly, as the pandemic progressed, we managed to mobilize some passenger aircraft: 2,500 in all. In between 250 to 300 of these the seats were removed to accommodate cargo.”
According to Mr Hughes’ assessment, the capacity on widebody passenger aircraft will be slow to return. “I’m thinking in terms of 3 or 4 years to return to pre-Covid levels. We will have to
keep an eye on that.”
Together with Pharma.aero, TIACA confronted the vaccine distribution process, which turned out to be an unprecedented challenge, the TIACA chief stressed. “Various products originating in different production sites have to be distributed, touching every corner of the world. Lots of regions only had passenger flights as their sole connection. So, what now?”
Business as unusual
As for the future, the road ahead is bumpy, Mr Hughes believes. “E-commerce and digitization will pursue their growth path. Even if the economy picks up, the return of passenger aircraft will be slow, creating disrupted connectivity for the cargo business as well. Using passenger planes for the transport of cargo, is not the best solution. They do not have the same operational advantages as freighters and cannot be handled with the same equipment.”
As for the airlines, Mr Hughes sees new players on the horizon, specifically where ownership is concerned. The global vaccine distribution will be an on-going challenge. There is also the rising cost of oil. “We will have to be agile and prepare for new business models,” he concluded.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender’s name is authentic.