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Airlines are ignoring key requirements of their customers, according to shippers, and need to revise their business models.
“The two key words for us are reliability and flexibility,” said Denis Choumert, chair of the European Shippers’ Council.
“We need to switch to quicker and more efficient services and want permanent flexibility at the regulatory level,” he told delegates at Tiaca’s regional symposium in Amsterdam this week.
For true reliability, the air cargo industry needs to offer shippers real visibility into their shipments.
“The e-AWB is still far off, and we want track and trace. Big shippers use predictable visibility via AI, with companies like Project44 and FourKites,” said Mr Choumert, but added that those services were expensive and smaller shippers needed options.
“We want the industry to start experimenting as quickly as possible, particularly in emerging countries.”
Pieter Vlam, manager freight at Bausch Health Netherlands, agreed. He said: “We are not happy with the quality of reliability and visibility.
“Track and trace is a manual exercise. My own track and trace is as good as that at an airport. But I’d like a reliable service with track and trace – if it’s booked, it’s flying. These are two elements that should be changed.”
Shippers agreed that air cargo had the tools to offer better services, pointing to the express industry as well as passengers. Lars Droog, director EMEA operations at Cytek Biosciences, added: “Lots of organisations have their own projects for visibility, such as active loggers, and that should be a USP for the industry.
“If it becomes an option, it will be huge and help the air freight industry as a whole. Air cargo has the tools to be the best, and we should review the business models. Express is easy, and end to end.”
He said Cytek had moved from ocean to air, and from air to express to get better quality services. But he added that Covid had benefited partnerships.
“During Covid we worked with forwarders and airlines and found new routings – working together is key. There are benefits to working with freight forwarders, but it doesn’t happen enough.”
Mr Choumert agreed that digitisation and visibility of services was also key, adding: “There is transparency in passenger flights – you know if a flight is fully booked.
“But in air cargo, there is no knowledge about the type of capacity or whether I should try a different strategy. Should I do a long-term contract or spot? It happens in ocean, but not in air.”
Mr Droog also expressed concern that the air cargo industry was facing challenges because of the labour market, and needed to digitise faster.
“We have been forced to invest in robots and digitisation because of the labour market. Flight delays are because there are no people. That’s a concern.”