Freight - Belly freight will always be in vogue

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo News  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
At least once a week newspapers run some article about an airline going under. Bankruptcies seem to abound. But as the days tick away toward the end of this year, the Grand Reaper of the Skies does not sit on his perch ready to use his sickle. The Phoenix will rise from the ashes. All one has to do is look at the example of Swiss WorldCargo, the cargo arm of Swiss International Air Lines, to get a perspective on what is and what can happen in the airline business. If history is to repeat itself with some airlines, the Swiss truly offer a good role model.
Swiss WorldCargo executives know that in today’s competitive marketplace the only way to soar with the birds is to keep your eye on the horizon. It’s forerunner, Swissair, made a crash landing, but this restructured company intends to keep flying, even if this year’s figures are not as good as they had hoped. Some soothsayers say all cargo carriers are capturing the lion’s share of the freight these days, impacting combi carrier business.
“Shippers need to look at the issue of belly freight versus utilizing all-freight carriers,” says Bernd Maresch, Swiss WorldCargo general manager. “Belly freight carriers, including Emirates and Lufthansa Cargo, all make this same statement. The capacity that all-cargo carriers provide can offer a lot of opportunities. But this business is not about consolidated freight only, especially nowadays when so many logistics providers are specialized in certain areas. All-freight carriers will never get the frequencies that we have with belly capacity on passenger flights. It is not possible.”
Cargo carriers certainly provide a niche and many do it well, particularly for those handling heavy lift or over-size shipments. Consider Cargolux, which flies several times a week from key hubs in Luxembourg as well as smaller markets such as locales in Africa. This carrier has certainly found its niche and will continue to do so in the years ahead. Earlier this year Cargolux Airlines took delivery of its thirteenth Boeing 747-400F and simultaneously ordered its fourteenth aircraft of this same type for delivery in October 2005.
“But belly a carriers always offer a much more dedicated distribution method than all-freight carriers can ever offer,” Maresch says. “Plus, our cutoff and delivery times are quicker, particularly since we can only take 10 to 20 tons on our aircraft.”
For one thing, a freighter that hauls 120 tons takes longer to be cleared.
“Isn’t air cargo always measured by its speed of delivery?” Maresch asks. “There is no service without a speed factor.”
Speed, careful handling, security, and safety are all issues near and dear to the air freight market. As the air cargo industry continues to evolve and take shape, however, users of this transportation mode have reason to be especially concerned about the particular role passenger carriers play in the world of shipping cargo, especially international freight. For one, there is the constant issue of security and how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will rule regarding screening and inspecting freight.
Quality service will always be in vogue with air carriers. Quality—- and precision—is the area in which the Swiss pride themselves. Maresch points out that Swiss WorldCargo has set such high quality standards that the average success ratio for freight flown as booked (FOB) is 96%.
“This is extremely high,” he says. “Our ratio for our express product is between 97 and 98% and our value product is between 98 and 100%. You see, reliability is one of the biggest factors people can count on in selecting Swiss. We have made a lot of effort to improve our reliability, especially in the tracking and tracing of shipments. Data reliability is one of the major projects we have been involved in with Cargo 2000.”
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Cargo 2000, an IATA Interest Group, is and will continue to be the standard set in meeting certain air cargo standards. Today Cargo 2000 brings together some 32 major airlines, handl

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American Journal of Transportation