Freight forwarders and their customers are adapting to a fast-changing air freight environment, with some continuing to operate substantial COVID-19 air charter programmes while others report a slowing in global demand in recent weeks for urgent PPE shipments and a relatively high level of ‘passenger-freighter’ operations helping to limit the need for cargo charter flights, although some ‘passenger-freighter’ operations are now dropping away.
Bolloré Logistics is maintaining its COVID-19 air charter solutions programme between China and Europe throughout June. Its charter programme began in March and the French forwarder has already organised 16 ‘pure freighter’ flights this month linking the Chinese cities of Shanghai Pudong, Guangzhou and Zhengzhou with Luxembourg, Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Liège airports.
They were operated by Qatar Airways, Cargolux, CAL Cargo Airlines and Silk Way West Airlines using a mix of B777 and B747 freighters. The four carriers are scheduled to operate a further 13 flights between now and the end of the month from the same Chinese cities to Luxembourg and Paris-CDG.
Last week, Chapman Freeborn’s head of Cargo, Pierre Van der Stichele, told Lloyd’s Loading List that demand for COVID-19 relief cargo flights had cooled down significantly, noting: “Right now, there seem to be sufficient capacity to serve most requirements for PPE shipments as more airlines have converted passenger aircraft to cargo-only mode.”
A spokesperson for freight forwarder DSV commented: “We can confirm that the pax freighters have dropped off to a great extent. This is directly related to the charter pricing, which also dropped in recent weeks. The pax freighters came in handy when the charter prices were high and have added much-needed capacity as well as direct routes to destinations otherwise not currently serviced by freighters.
“DSV has organised a significant number of charter flights related to Covid-19 in recent months. Our charter activities, including our own-operated charter network, continue, but as regular commodities have started to pick up again, our focus has partly shifted away from PPE.”
A spokesperson for DHL Global Forwarding told Lloyd's Loading List earlier today: “As the COVID-19 crisis in some parts of the world is calming down – especially in Asia and Europe –demand for dedicated charter flights to transport PPE and other medical supplies on some trade lanes is decreasing. However, thanks to its asset-light business model and long-standing partnerships with various air freight carriers, DHL Global Forwarding is able to adapt quickly and flexible to changing market conditions.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Kuehne +Nagel told Lloyd’s Loading List: “We can confirm the decreased demand (for COVID-19 related charter flights) reflecting the slowing down in global demand for PPE and reduced passenger freighters operations.”
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Maersk predicts supply chain bottlenecks and short boxes due to surging demand will continue through the fourth quarter of 2021 before returning to normal. Evergreen General Manager Tse Wai-chuen has previously said that congestion is expected to be delayed until the third quarter.