© Sergey Khakimullin |project selfie92584520
© Sergey Khakimullin

Shippers are supporting a new initiative to better reflect air cargo’s true worth by changing the metrics used to report freight load factors.

Project Selfie, launched here by our columnist Niall van de Wouw and supported by The Loadstar, is asking airlines to submit data on load factors based on volume rather than weight alone.

It aims to create three perspectives of the industry’s capacity utilisation: load factors based on weight,  volume and a combination of the two.

Rogier Spoel, policy manager air transport at the European Shippers’ Council, said: “We had the discussion with big business, which told us that because load factors were apparently low, it was a good thing that freighter slots are disappearing [at Schiphol].”

Load factors at Schiphol are said to be about 60%.

“People are saying if slot numbers go down, then load factors will go up,” added Mr Spoel. “But that doesn’t make any sense. Some freighter operators wanted extra flights – why would they do that if they were not at capacity?

“Take dangerous goods – it’s a standalone box, but the air around it has been sold. It is difficult information to judge, on the current basis.

“There are always a lot of discussions on load factors and data – but everyone interprets it in a different way. Project Selfie will align that data, and it’s a first step in giving shippers the transparency they need.”

Mr van de Wouw argued in his original blog that “the published cargo load factors are distorted and misleading”.

He added: “It is the volume capacity (in cubic metres) which is the bottleneck, not the weight capacity (in tonnes).

“It is time we measured ourselves against a metric that appreciates our industry’s unique characteristics, and not against a derivative measure from the passenger industry.”

Published load factors can influence a vast range of people with influence over, but little direct experience of, the industry, such as  environmentalists, governments, regulators and financiers.

The majority of airlines already internally calculate their load factors based on volumetric measures, but send IATA different data to work out the “official” load factor based on weight calculations.

Mr Spoel urged IATA to support the Project Selfie initiative, which already has airlines signed up to share their data in order to create a better measure of capacity utilisation.

“People can be anxious if a commercial party is involved, so some sort of support from IATA would be great. It doesn’t have to be an IATA project, but it could help to bring this information into the 21st century.”

He added: “Shippers would support this initiative and help bring it forward in any way they can.”

All airlines contacted so far have expressed support for the project. Most expressed similar thoughts to one airline executive who  said: ”We already do this internally for the reasons you describe.

“We all sell cargo on a volumetric basis, hence chargeable weight, and for many of our routes volume is more constraining than weight.”

Another said: “Of course I will support this initiative.  It makes sense. We use volume for every shipment, but I am shocked at how many major carriers have no capability to do this.”

To join this cost-free initiative (or for more information), please send an email before October 27 to [email protected], and we will contact you directly to discuss the data requirements and legal conditions.

We are aiming to present the project’s results via The Loadstar by the week of December 4.

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