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Cargo.one, the rate and booking platform for air freight, is gaining traction with airlines.
Finnair joined last week, and two more airlines are in the process of coming on board.
More than 150 forwarders have already signed up to use the site, which has so far been dominated by Lufthansa Group airlines.
The platform is unique in that it not only shows carrier rates, but also has capacity data that allows forwarders to book shipments.
Hellmann Worldwide Logistics is one of the forwarders convinced of its benefits.
“It’s working well,” said Jan Kleine-Lasthues, global head of airfreight. “We were looking for a solution to get ready for the future and recognised that cargo.one would help us not only to gain productivity in operations, but also to reduce manual communications with customers.
“However, at this stage we cannot yet quantify final cost savings.
“As a forwarder, we do not develop solutions on our own, or have an app for every airline. So cargo.one is the partner that can connect us to all of them.
“For us, it’s about transparency and efficiency. We have the information anyway, but changing it from a manual to an automated quotation process makes our day-to-day business much easier.”
Cargo.one raised $3.2m in seed financing from Creandum and Point Nine Capital, with the participation of Lufthansa Cargo, which has become a minority shareholder and, until now, the main airline group involved, with subsidiaries Eurowings and Austrian on the site, and partner Condor among the 15 or so carriers involved.
“We need to automate processes,” Dorothea von Boxberg, chief commercial officer of Lufthansa Cargo, told The Loadstar. “And Cargo.one creates more transparency in the market.”
She added that the entry of Finnair showed that other carriers were not put off by Lufthansa’s shareholding.
Moritz Claussen, co-founder of Cargo.one, also pointed to the example of Champ, part-owned by Cargolux, which has hundreds of carrier customers.
“The share ownership is not a problem as long as there are rules in place. The major obstacle is that carriers are lagging on pricing and capacity information.”
For the platform to operate effectively, it needs a critical mass of carriers, said Mr Kleine-Lasthues. “At this early stage, there are obviously not enough airlines cooperating yet, and so there is a clear target to get more.
“To be able to use cargo.one around the world for our daily operations, we would need another 10 to 15 airlines on the platform.”
He said he could envisage all Hellmann’s ad hoc bookings going through the platform, when sufficient numbers of airlines had joined.
While some airlines, such as AF-KLM, have made pricing available, forwarders want a one-stop shop for bookings.
“Airlines are more and more into transparency, they want to make their customers’ lives easier,” said Mr Claussen. “Once cargo.one rates are displayed, it will bring more opportunities to airlines.
“You can find spot rates on some rate management tools out there, but not capacity, and you must be able to book. We believe the value is in a rate that’s bookable.
“We want to replace the process of writing e-mails and making phone calls, which is a synchronous and lengthy procedure. Many airlines already realise that it doesn’t make sense for them to create a proprietary system. So, we see ourselves as an aggregator and enabler for digital distribution.”
At the moment, the platform only covers general cargo, but it is planning a move into perishables and other products.
“It’s unlikely that you would ever be able to book the shipment of an elephant, or other difficult or heavy items,” said Mr Claussen. “But the vast majority of cargo will be able to be booked through the platform.”
Bookings can be made up to 30 days in advance, with the only restriction being an airline’s cut off.
“One benefit has been that forwarders are now making bookings on a weekend,” added Mr Claussen.
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