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Despite scepticism from various parts of the air cargo industry, booking platforms continue to develop.

The latest news is that TAP Air Cargo has joined cargo.one’s platform, including its cargo-only passenger flights, to give its customers “a seamless booking experience”.

“Cargo.one empowers us to digitise a crucial part of our value chain and thus to increase operational efficiency while at the same time reducing substantial costs,” said Miguel de Paiva Gomes, global chief cargo officer for TAP.

“Together with this experienced partner, we will be able to drive innovation much faster.”

Cargo.one has also moved into special products, which many industry observers predicted would be difficult for a booking platform to develop. Last month it launched Passive Temp Control to all freight forwarders in Europe.

“This product extension enables freight forwarders to compare quotes and book passively cooled shipments, like pharmaceuticals, in four different temperature ranges,” it said.

“The mission of cargo.one is to make the air cargo markets more productive and thus more successful,” said Oliver Neumann, founder and managing director.

“Extending the range of commodities is an exciting next step towards fulfilling our mission. This wouldn’t have been possible without the trust of our partner airlines who experience our performance as a key revenue stream first hand, and have thus always supported our desire to innovate. The result is a uniquely simple and quick way to book passively cooled shipments.”

He added that the launch made cargo.one the first multi-airline booking platform “to offer directly bookable pharmaceutical shipments with dynamic pricing and instant confirmation”.

However, recent comments on LinkedIn and The Loadstar reveal a wide degree of scepticism about booking platforms, with many industry insiders claiming they are not trusted by forwarders, also fearful, in some cases, that the platforms will be used to allow shippers to book directly – something booking platforms do not currently allow.

One commentator noted: “Although online bookings is the ‘next big thing’, I am not sure forwarders will benefit from it, and most of them definitely mistrust them.”

Others say multinationals try to ensure a lack of transparency in the pricing and booking process.

“It’s the multinationals – they try to keep it a dark art. But it’s a glorified taxi cab booking,” said one independent forwarder.

However, cargo.one has been supported by forwarders from the beginning, with Hellmann an early adopter of the site. And Agility praised the passive temperature-controlled product.

“Our life science team consults the comprehensive and easy to use cargo.one platform for passively cooled shipments to get an immediate overview on possible airline offerings, supporting us to build customer-specific and tailor-made solutions,” said Fabian Kapteina of Agility Logistics in Frankfurt.

While some forwarders say they don’t hide pricing from shippers, but make their money through consolidation and other services, others don’t agree.

“A forwarder’s value starts with how cheap their buying cost from a carrier is, [that’s the] bitter truth.”

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