Against the odds: Peak season is coming, or is it? And do carriers care?
To peak or not to peak…
Asia Pacific scheduled freighter services are on the road to recovery, according to AirBridgeCargo (ABC), with the airline still anticipating a peak season.
Eric Lamare, ABC’s director of scheduled cargo operations for Asia Pacific, said while any forecast was “sensitive” at this stage, an uptick in volumes in June showed promising signs.
“Asia Pacific was the first region to re-start scheduled services and, most likely, will be the first for a full recovery by 2021,” he told The Loadstar.
“This will be facilitated by growing exports from North-east Asia and, in particular, by China’s GDP growth, which saw a 3.2% increase in the second quarter, following the withdrawal of coronavirus lockdowns and government stimulus to revive its economy.”
ABC has so far resumed around 50% of its scheduled cargo operations, with the rest of its services operated on charter flights.
In Vietnam, where ABC saw strong growth in 2019, the airline’s volumes almost halved during the first five months of the year, due to lockdowns.
“We had to refocus on charter freighter services, the same as for other markets,” Mr Lamare said. “For the moment, we only operate charter flights from Vietnam as we receive regular demands to carry PPE, mainly to the Americas.”
With US and European passenger fleets still largely grounded, he indicated there would still be enough demand for an end-of-year peak season – for freighter airlines, at least.
Mr Lamare added: “Peak season might be less striking than in previous years, but the lack of belly capacity will have a significant impact on logistics flows during this period and customers will want to secure capacities through cargo carriers.”
For example, the launch of new hi-tech products will stimulate export demand, according to Mr Lamare, as will Singles Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other events.
He added: “We expect continuing demand for e-commerce shipments, facilitated by changes in consumer behavior and continuing switch from offline to online shopping, which is safer and more reliable these days. Hi-tech goods are also forecast to increase amid the emerging popularity of work-from-home gadgets and devices.”
Indeed, ABC recently expanded its partnership with Chinese e-com giant Cainiao, providing capacity out of Hong Kong, to Madrid, for AliExpress sellers.
However, Mr Lamare said ABC was also busy preparing for another potential surge in PPE cargo and pharmaceuticals.
“We aim to leverage volumes of healthcare shipments, covering deliveries of PPE, medical beds, mattresses, respiration units and other essentials. With the whole world expecting Covid-19 vaccines to appear soon, we have been on the alert, making sure we have ULDs rented to accommodate the traffic.”