Ram Menen who invented air cargo
for Emirates Airline and then led the Dubai carrier before
retiring seven years ago joins the COVID-19 and air cargo story.
“Surveying the air cargo event landscape
for the remainder of 2020,” Ram said,” my guess is cargo events
folks are a bit more optimistic than everybody else, namely the attendees.”
On Trade Shows
“Right now as the global pandemic
continues to rage, I am not too sure if this optimism is well placed as
travel and large gathering of people, I reckon, will not be encouraged
for at least a year until a vaccine appears or at least we can feel our
efforts to mitigate this global scourge are achieved, and millions of
folks are vaccinated.
“My thought is that it is better for
all to cancel earlier than last moment to avoid huge costs.
“But all of us should look, give full
marks for optimism and then do what we have to do.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has given credence
to IATA Cargo’s slogan “Air cargo makes it happen”.
“The global airline industry has always
allowed cargo to be overshadowed by the passenger business.
“But now sadly, the tables have turned
at least in the short run and maybe longer as criticality of the logistics
and transportation industry have been clearly established, given that
their mainstay passenger business has been brought down to its knees like
Are Here Again?
“For several airlines, cargo is generating
some cash to help sustain their companies. The passenger traffic is likely
to take a few years to come back, so most passenger airlines are likely
to turn to cargo to keep themselves afloat.
“This would mean that cargo should
be in the driver’s seat at least for the next 3-4 years.
“Having said that, memories are short
and once the pax traffic is back, most airline focus will turn back to
pax-related issues which could sideline cargo priorities again.”
“More progressive airlines like Lufthansa,
Emirates, Qatar, Cathay, Singapore, Korean etc. will continue to give
due attention to cargo as they have in the past.
“It will be up to the leadership in
the cargo departments to keep reminding what cargo did when the chips
were down and let their pax peers not forget the value that air cargo
brings to the airlines, airports and, the world.”
Ability To Function
“The fact remains that without logistics,
the front liners, be they in medical, an army at war, for that matter,
all aspects of life, would not be able to function.
“The folks in logistics and transportation
in general are the unsung heroes.”
Up To CIC
“Cargo in the cabin and bellies work
well when the supply and demand is tipped towards demand.
“This is not the first time that pax
aircraft have been used for Cargo In Cabin (CIC) operations and this is
not going to be the last.
“The cost of using pax aircraft for
cargo only missions is more expensive than production freighters.
“In pax CIC cargo-only operation,
the entire route revenue has to come from a lot lower tonnage as the available
payload on a pax aircraft is up to 40-50% lower than that of a production
“So the breakeven and unit cost becomes
a lot higher.
“Hence, moving cargo in this manner
requires higher rates to be viable.
Aircraft such as B777-300ERF can carry up to 60 plus tons in their bellies.
“That is why some pax aircraft are
called freighters in disguise or the invisible freighters.”
“To achieve true revenue success you
need to have high density cargo.
“However, in the current scenario,
equipment like PPE, ventilators and other medical equipment/accessories
tend to be very volumetric, cubing out before weighing out.
“Added to density in bellies, cabin
loading for mail and less dense consignments makes sense to achieve better
Manpower Drive CIC
“Loading in the cabin works when we
are in desperate situations as it is virtually bulk loading in the cabin,
which is extremely manpower intensive and an inefficient high cost operation
for the ground handlers. CIC also requires extended ground times which
further adds to cost.”
“So, once the pax operations start
coming back, the attractiveness of cabin loading is likely to fade.
“It is probable that most airlines
are going to shrink their operations to match the pax demand resulting
in lower capacity supply in the cargo market.”
Might Hold Over
“Lower capacity as things go, could
mean that air cargo rates are likely to be on the higher side for the
near to medium term.
“This has a knock-on effect on the
economy and the cost of goods and services in the market are likely to
be higher for the foreseeable future in comparison to the pre-Covid-19
“Put another way, we have all got
to get used to a higher cost of living for a few years.”
Could Get Railroaded
“What the air cargo industry has got
to be careful about is the loss of traffic to rail, especially on the
“In a high demand, short supply situation,
cargo generally can take a week to 10 days to get to destination.
“This makes the 14-17 days rail transit
times from China to Europe a viable option at a lot lower cost.
“In the past, we used to see migration
from air to sea.
“This time around we are likely to
see migration from air and sea to rail.
“So while our business is making hay
while the sun shines, we all need to think about the future and try and
sustain the growth of the traditional trade lanes business, which could
also be affected by the reshoring of supply chains.”
For All Seasons
“In a quite stressful time there are
many heroes that I admire, however, in my book, the biggest heroes are
the teams that help the front-liners to keep humankind and the world safe
“These are the unsung heroes of the
international, domestic and local logistics and transportation companies,
including those involved in last mile deliveries.
“Without those dear hearts and gentle
people, the wheels of commerce would come to a grinding halt.
“And yes I do believe will get through
this time!” Ram Menen assures.