A perfect storm of port closures, labor shortages and the earlier blanked sailings has ocean freight rates skyrocketing and shippers and freight forwarders converting volumes from ocean to air. Sustained, elevated demand is keeping airfreight rates well above pre-pandemic norms and despite capacity not yet returning to 2019 levels, shipment volume has held steady with 2019 levels or even surpassed those levels.
Global deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine also continues with shipments moving by air to a steadily increasing number of countries. As with early in the pandemic when personal protective equipment shipments drove a surge in airfreight demand, the world’s eye is on airfreight to support supply chains as the industry moves toward a holiday peak season unlike any other.
Air transportation is hardly without its own difficulties, though. Airlines largely left the worst of their earnings losses behind them in 2020, but recent announcements of second-quarter and first-half results show that the world’s combination carriers are feeling the impact of the continued travel restrictions and reduced passenger demand. Aviation still looks vastly different than it did before 2020, and that is unlikely to change for the remainder of this year.
Carriers are also the focus of this month’s feature story at Air Cargo World. Our top story for August is the Freight 50, our annual ranking of the world’s top cargo carriers and groups, based on 2020 traffic. With this Freight 50 reflecting the upheaval of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, final figures for 2020 illustrate the benefits of a strong freighter fleet as well as the capacity struggles still impacting combination carriers as we approach the end of 2021.
Our second feature considers the increasing usage of Sustainable Aviation Fuel in support of airfreight operations. For the feature, “Sustainable aviation fuel: The key to decarbonizing the airfreight industry,” Associate Editor Kelly Stroh spoke to some of the world’s largest airfreight forwarders about their partnerships with carriers to utilize SAF for cargo shipments and working with cargo customers to encourage more sustainable operations. Read the full feature story here.
For more on how new technologies are developing in airfreight, register for the next webinar in our 2021 series, “Airfreight’s new digital age: Technology trends in air cargo,” scheduled for Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. ET. You can also find technology news as it develops on AirCargoWorld.com.
Editor, Air Cargo World