Pierre van der Stichele, VP of cargo at Air Partner

Widebody freighter aircraft will be “impossible” to charter by the fourth quarter.

According to Pierre van der Stichele, VP of cargo at charter broker Air Partner, the flood of e-commerce traffic will mean stakeholders must “ride the storm” of capacity shortages.

“In Q4 this year, widebody and long-range aircraft capacity will be very hard, if not impossible, to find,” he told The Loadstar on the sidelines of last week’s Multimodal event in Birmingham.

“The main reason for this is that traditional routes operated by scheduled airlines will experience a more pronounced peak season – but what’s really impacting the charter business is e-commerce,” he explained.

“E-commerce is very, very strong” and major ecommerce giants, namely Alibaba, Shein, Temu and Amazon, are “taking a big chunk of the capacity that’s available on the market”.

According to Mr van der Stichele, these e-tail giants have been looking to book Q4 capacity since the beginning of the year, leading to space shortages on 777Fs, 747Fs, A330Fs and 767Fs.

Indeed, one large Americas forwarder told The Loadstar: “The message this year, especially as it relates to Asia-Pacific outbound, capacity will be the most important thing, customers chasing the lowest rates are going to be challenged to find the necessary capacity.”

And Mr van der Stichele also warned that little could be done to mitigate this capacity crunch, adding: “We just have to sit there and ride the storm.”

But, he said, the “clever airlines” would be reserving freighter capacity closer to Q4 and releasing it at higher prices.

“The holding of capacity is an interesting game, as carriers are holding on to space for as long as they can until a desperate shortage takes place, and then releasing it at premium rates.

“The timing is very important, but at the same time it’s a risk some carriers are willing to take. Q4 is particularly important as it’s the peak season in the run-up to Christmas,” he said.

Richard Forson, CEO of Cargolux, previously told The Loadstar: “We’ve had requests to lock-in capacity for Q4, but we always try and keep a balance of what’s sold and what’s kept in reserve.”

However, he added that Cargolux was operating “a significant number of charters” for e-commerce purposes.

Mr van der Stichele said the influx of e-commerce traffic in the airfreight market had disrupted the normal seasonality and, therefore, predictability of demand.

“Traditionally we had a low season, a peak season, a flower season. You still have those seasons, but they’re no longer accentuated. One year you think you’re going to have a really good peak season, and then there isn’t one or it’s barely noticeable – it’s kind of odd.

“I’ve never seen the industry so volatile in my near-30 years in cargo,” he concluded.

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  • Roy Linkner

    June 20, 2024 at 2:17 am

    Capacity impact from other flying, military charters? hmmm.