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Etihad Cargo and Kuehne + Nagel appear to have reached the holy grail for large forwarders – direct ebooking connectivity. But the question, according to one large forwarder, is whether the digital-enabled capacity procurement goes far enough.

Major forwarders have reported that they feel under-served by airline attempts to digitalise booking. One in the US told The Loadstar in April they wanted greater connectivity to real-time airline capacity.

“What the carriers have done thus far is geared towards maybe the smaller niche forwarders. When you procure in the way we do, meaning ULDs or big block agreements every month, the digital platforms and/or the carriers’ direct API capabilities are just not there yet.

“If I want to go book a 100kg shipment out of Los Angeles to Amsterdam with a carrier, I can do that online, but I don’t procure like that. We’re procuring hundreds of ULDs every week, and that is a different procurement model than a smaller forwarder might have.

“And so we still see there’s a lot of opportunity for that to develop. And I think the carriers would say the same.”

Etihad’s direct e-booking integration with K+N gives the forwarder “seamless access to real-time capacity and pricing”, claimed the carrier, adding that the integration would add “greater transparency, efficiency, and flexibility” in the booking process.

VP cargo Stanislas Brun added: “By providing K+N with direct access to Etihad Cargo’s network’s real-time data, this integration enhances their ability to make informed booking decisions, streamline operations and, ultimately, deliver superior service to their customers.”

Holger Ketz, K+N’s global head of air logistics network and carrier management, said: “By launching direct ebooking with Etihad Cargo, Kuehne+Nagel can offer its customers real time access to capacity and pricing. This will create greater operational efficiencies and optimise our customers’ experience.”

The question for very large forwarders is whether the integration goes far enough.

The forwarding source explained: “We don’t have the ability right now to procure digitally with carriers for the large amount of business we have.

“I think it’s really all about the priorities and resources of the carriers. And I think they know. Our message has been clear that we expect them to prioritise and provide the resources to do this, because somebody will, and whoever does that will have an advantage from a procurement perspective when it comes to dealing with large forwarders.

“I think we’re still well behind the eight ball.”

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