Editor’s Note: The acceleration of 2020

Caryn Livingston, Editor, Air Cargo World

With the cancellation of industry conferences, face-to-face meetings, family vacations and school semesters so far this year, the pace of most of our day-to-day lives has slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aviation has likewise slowed, driven by the waning passenger demand from the conferences and vacations postponed to some unknown future date when such gatherings can be conducted safely. As is now apparent, air cargo volumes have declined from year-ago levels in many cases as well, as canceled passenger flights are no longer available for cargo transport purposes.

If life and logistics have both slowed during the pandemic, then where does the acceleration of 2020 feature? First of all, in this month’s story from Editor Caryn Livingston and Editorial Intern Joshua Aelick, “E-commerce’s lockdown shake-up: Supply chains remade by at-home shopping spree.”

The exploration of how e-commerce demand and the supply chain supporting it have changed during the pandemic finds that a trend that has been gathering speed for years — the shift from brick-and-mortar retail to online shopping — has grown substantially in only the past few months. The hit to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in 2020 has been substantial, with several major retailers planning to restructure or close stores altogether. Alongside that, e-commerce volumes have more than doubled during the past months for some of the forwarders who spoke with Air Cargo World. The slow rebalancing of retail to online platforms has been accelerated due to changing customer needs and feelings about in-person shopping during a pandemic.

The search for more streamlined customs procedures for air cargo also received a boost this year, thanks to an urgent need for shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) from China. Quality control concerns and systems to address them had arisen before, as seen in the partnership between forwarder Kuehne+Nagel and JD.com from 2017, but the urgent nature of the PPE shipments spurred China’s Ministry of Commerce to act quickly and expand its enforcement of national and international standards. For shipments to continue, the air cargo operators had to adapt even faster.

The feature story on this topic, “Flattening the learning curve: How the pandemic is an opportunity to streamline air cargo,” from Senior Editor Charles Kauffman, highlights the speed at which these bureaucratic systems needed to adapt, as well as the strategies carriers and forwarders are using to speed up customs clearance. New shipping demands have placed novel challenges on the industry, and while volumes may be lower, the speed at which companies must adapt to the changes is high. Carriers, forwarders and companies in air cargo are so far rising to meet the challenges, as discussed in this month’s Cargo Chat with TAP Air Portugal, conducted by Associate Editor Jeff Lee and written by Editorial Intern Ashley Mowreader.

With so much at stake amid the pandemic and the world’s supply chains reliant on airfreight, we expect our industry to continue to rise to the occasion, no matter how quickly things may change.

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