BERLIN — Air cargo has an image problem.
That was the central message from Peter Gerber, the CEO of Lufthansa Cargo.
In cargo transport, a small percentage of overall volume is carried by air, but that cargo is also a high percentage of value of all cargo transported. During remarks yesterday at the 2016 World Cargo Symposium, Gerber said the airfreight industry needs to make it clear to consumers what would happen if air cargo doesn’t happen. As an example, he pointed out that everyone has a smart phone in his or her pocket, and it came by air. However, consumers don’t see the connection between how those goods got to them.
Gerber implied that there are negative implications from this lack of understanding. When asked if politicians “get it,” Gerber said it depends.
“There are some who are concerned about the needs of the industry, but there are others who don’t care or understand,” he said.
He said that pressure needs to be put upon politicians in order for them to understand the problem, presumably to improve the global position of air cargo and its regulations.
The environment is a big issue in Germany, as it is in all of Europe, and although aviation is the youngest mode of transport, Gerber said 30 percent of noise and pollution has been cut from the mode.
The slow pace of digitization in the industry was not lost on him. “It’s not a dream; there’s not an alternative, and it will become a reality sooner or later,” he said. “Air freight is not getting faster.” (Digital innovation will be the central topic at Air Cargo World’s Elevate conference on 10 October 2016 in Miami — see www.elevateaircargo.com.) Referencing Amazon’s decision to acquire 20 freighters for its own deliveries, he said that that sends a strong signal that the industry has to improve.
Drones and freighters without pilots are a reality, but Gerber sees no real opportunity for Lufthansa to operate large drones. The carrier already operates a fleet of 777Fs, and it will decide on whether or not to order more freighters only when capacity decreases. With the price of fuel so low now, he sees no point in ordering new freighters. Rather, Lufthansa will fly its current aircraft for now.
Gerber said it was not the rise of belly-loaded cargo that is dampening the carrier’s appetite for freighters. “I don’t see that bellies can take over, because they don’t fly all the lanes we serve,” he AIDS. Lufthansa’s widebody aircraft have a definite market. On major trade lanes Lufthansa is serving, it needs freighters, he said.
Europe is still the largest regional economy and he believes Europe will continue to thrive. Gerber said the key is to work with shippers to give them the best value and the best service – and, essentially, to care more about the shipper. As such, he doesn’t see a modal shift away from air transport for pharmaceuticals, and regarding lithium batteries, he agreed with IATA director general Tony Tyler and Dr. Fang Liu of ICAO, who spoke earlier in the day, that governments need to be more involved in facilitating their smooth air transport.
“I would like to see regulations so we know what’s in the shipments, that they come from a reliable source,” he said.
Air Cargo World is the Official Media Sponsor of the IATA World Cargo Symposium.