Space and time are inextricably linked – Einstein’s well-known Theory of Relativity celebrates its 117th anniversary this year. His mathematical spacetime model combines the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional entity. An entrepreneurial spirit and an epiphanic encounter with the belly of a Boeing 747 freighter have now given rise to a fifth dimension into the combination: the finite space in an aircraft flying from A to B. The result? Airblox is the first intelligent online marketplace to offer Blocked Space Agreement trading in the form of eBSA. CargoForwarder Global spoke to its Founder, Edip Pektas at the WCS 2022.
“I guess I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” Edip Pektas tells me. “When I was around 11 years old, I decided to gather together all my friends’ Gameboys and then hire them out to the
kids in the neighbourhood for 10 minutes of play at a time.” Time blocks, if you wish. Given this first venture into trading, combined with having a commercial pilot for a father, the seeds
for Airblox were already sown a couple of decades ago. However, it wasn’t until 2017, when Edip got to admire the belly of a majestic Queen of the Skies from beneath, that the air cargo bug took
a stronghold. By this time, he was working in ground handling technology over at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and the potentials for digitalization were glaringly obvious.
eBay for air cargo
With increasingly emerging airline eBooking platforms and third-party eBooking marketplaces, the digitally untouched niche was clear, too: freight forwarders holding Blocked Space Agreements (BSA) on certain routes on set dates for specific weight and volume shipments. These BSAs cannot always be filled and, depending on the BSA contract type, can end up costing the forwarder. So, why not tender them out and ensure the space does not go to waste? In fact, freight forwarders, GSAs and airlines can use Airblox to offer their BSA space. “Airblox is a bit like eBay for air cargo,” Edip explains. “We’re bridging the gap between finance and logistics. eBSAs are a perfect tool for digital standardization, since you have a route or lane, a frequency, and a pivot rate.” Those looking for space have three options on Airblox: they can either bid, buy, or block. “A bid allows buyers to submit offers to a single or multiple lanes where the seller can review and accept the lane to the bidder of their choice. A buy allows buyers to out-right purchase a single or multiple lanes at a time, and a block allows buyers to reserve a single or multiple lanes for a partial premium of the purchase price set by the seller,” the Airblox website explains.
Making things Beta
Edip Pektas called upon his college friend, Farhan Farrukh, a fintech and aviation consulting expert. Together they co-founded Airblox in JAN21, growing to a team of 20, today. Following 18 months of incubation, Airblox was soft-launched in MAR22 as a Beta version. First to join the platform, was Vietnamese freight forwarder, HPW Cargo. Meanwhile twenty pilot customers are searching, querying, and bidding on the platform, and the Airblox team is in discussion with four major carriers. “We have 109 routes on Airblox with 140,000 capacity AI, as we call it, allowing people to see what is available,” Edip says, actively demonstrating the system which gives a straightforward and intuitive overview of the offer: origin and destination with their respective dates and flight times, aircraft type/ULD, block price, bid start prices, base price, how many bids have been received or whether the space is blocked. It doesn’t stop there: “Through capacity AI, analysing different data sources, Airblox can estimate what might be available and at what price levels, and shows trending spot markets.” This information is updated daily. Also, airlines can set variables, such as how to handle requests coming from those agents known to have high no show factors, for example, alongside contract details and terms and conditions. The BSAs are not limited to general cargo only. “We’re agnostic,” Edip says, pointing out that perishable BSAs are also listed, and Airblox can be fed with all kinds of information.
The future is integration
“What I see happening over the next five years, is a lot of us integrating with each other,” Edip predicts, as we discuss the many digital solutions out there – some software providers with “airline-centric business models,” and third-party online marketplaces with their “market-centric business models.” He points out: “We’re a fintech company, so we try to focus on only creating tools that connect with the financial part of logistics.” Hence, work is currently also underway on being “payment agnostic” and enabling transaction payments within 5 days.
In the meantime, “our current goal is to gain as much exposure for Airblox as possible,” Edip says, as he and Farhan travel the world, talking to potential customers. Asia is particularly receptive to the unique platform idea. The true go-live is planned for the second quarter of 2023, he reveals.
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