At least that is what can be summarized from Lufthansa Cargo’s press release published in time for yesterday’s Aviation Day* (19AUG23). The cargo carrier is set on responding to three core trends currently transforming the world we live in: Sustainability, Digitalization, and eCommerce.
According to Ashwin Bhat, CEO of Lufthansa Cargo: “We are currently experiencing various upheavals within the airfreight industry. Sustainability, digitalization, and booming online trade are playing a central role. In order to be able to master this, we are relying on decisive and dynamic action along with all stakeholders in the industry. This is the only way we can remain fit for the future and live up to our responsibility as one of the world's leading air freight companies and enabling global business.”
Lufthansa Cargo and eCommerce?
If anyone had suggested, 20 years ago, that Lufthansa Cargo would participate in eCommerce one day, and moreover, publicly announce its intention to position Frankfurt Airport as “one of the world’s most important eCommerce hubs”, people would probably have smiled, patted that person on the back, and walked off to talk with someone about ‘real cargo’. After all, widebody freighter fleets are made for serious, large shipments, aren’t they? And small parcels are best left to that other animal in logistics, known as The Integrator. Even 10 years ago, it would still have been pretty much a (literal) pie in the sky notion. Lufthansa Cargo launched its first eCommerce project in 2017, which eventually led to the founding of its heyworld subsidiary in 2019, and – just in time for the unpredicted global hiatus that was Covid-19, heyworld opened its first eCommerce hub in JAN20, welcoming its one millionth eCommerce shipment a month later. Probably peanut figures in view of the eCommerce explosion that has taken place since then, and the potentials that are out there now that the airline also has narrowbody freighters in its fleet.
Dynamic action in eCommerce
And that potential is now the centerpoint of development over at Lufthansa Cargo. Together with its eCommerce specialist, heyworld, as well as its full-service customs subsidiary, CB Customs Broker GmbH, the cargo carrier is gearing up to establish Frankfurt Airport as a key global eCommerce hub. Among other things, this involves creating a new eCommerce terminal in Cargo City South, for efficient Asian supply chain processes, and growing a recently announced partnership between CB Customs Broker and GEORGI Handling. Ashwin Bhat explained the reason for the cargo airline’s ambitious eCommerce plans: “A decisive success factor for online retailing is the resilience and speed of the supply chain. We want to make Frankfurt a leading location in this segment by offering holistic solutions for shipping, customs clearance, and onward transport of eCommerce shipments.”
Broad-minded narrowbody expansion
With its growing fleet of A321F freighters (numbering three since JUN23, and soon to total four when the newest aircraft gets delivered in SEP23), Lufthansa Cargo is developing its intra-European network. For just over a year now, it has built up its service portfolio in the short- and medium-haul segment, offering over 50 weekly direct flights to 14 destinations ex Frankfurt. “The latest additions to the route network are Casablanca, Yerevan and Tunis,” the press release details, going on to point out that “further adjustments and extensions to the flight schedule on short- and medium-haul routes associated with the fleet expansion are currently still being planned to connect various economy centers,” as it prepares for its fourth A321F. Charter as well as scheduled solutions are possible. And a strong intra-European flight network is beneficial when it comes to meeting the tight delivery deadlines of major Chinese eCommerce players, for sure. On the other hand, with the ongoing Night Flight Ban in Frankfurt, and Germany’s immediate neighbor, France’s ban on short-haul domestic flights that came into effect on 23MAY23, the question is whether short-haul flights have much of a future, going forward – and how they otherwise tie in to the airline’s sustainability drive, sharkskins, SAF, and all? That said, will we see Lufthansa Cargo also taking up partnership with cargo drone manufacturers in the next 5-10 years? It would be interesting, too, to know how much eCommerce actually travels in the bellies of Lufthansa’s intra-European passenger flights, these days.
Green and digital details
CargoForwarder Global has often highlighted Lufthansa Cargo’s various digital and sustainability measures in the past, from its recent ‘paperless corridor’ initiative that it has embarked on with Kuehne+Nagel, to the launch of its sharkskin livery, its ventures into alternative aviation fuels, and other points along its journey to becoming CO2 neutral by 2050. This latest press release emphasizes that Lufthansa Cargo is continuously exploring different methods to improve its footprint. Not least the efficiency opportunities that AI also brings to the industry, these days. Nicole Mies, Head of Communication and Corporate Responsibility at Lufthansa Cargo, has the last word: “We see great potential in AI-based applications and have already integrated them into our services. From eBooking to eTracking, we now offer our customers extensive options along the transport chain. If we want to sustainably improve the industry's carbon footprint, we must use every opportunity to further reduce our CO₂ emissions.”
*A little general knowledge in case you didn’t know. Aviation Day has been celebrated since 1939, when the then U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced it in commemoration of one of the founding fathers of aviation, Orville Wright, born at Dayton, Ohio, USA, on 19 August 1871.
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