Air cargo faces wide spectrum of challenges including staff shortages
AIR freight is straining under the twin pressures of high demand and disruption from lower capacity and labour shortages, as well as various Covid restrictions, reports The Loadstar of UK.
Air cargo executives have cited problems across major hubs in Europe, including Amsterdam, London, Brussels, Frankfurt and Liege, as well as in the US.
“It’s crazy out there right now,” said one cargo handling executive.
“There are different situations at different airports, and handlers have different issues. But there has been a huge upturn in freighters, and passenger freighters, which has caused congestion.
“In the US, there is a dearth of warehouse capacity, and labour in some markets. It’s a bit of a bunfight for staff.”
Forwarders also complained that customers were unhappy with sky-high rates, combined with delays.
“LHR (Heathrow Airport) is facing significant delays, as sheds are unable to cope with the growing demand; waiting times are anything from five to ten hours,” said Lee Alderman-Davis, global product and development director for Ligentia.
“We are aware that some sheds are moving units to LGW (Gatwick Airport) for breaking, then returning loose cargo to LHR, which in theory should help ease the pressure, but in practice is adding further delays, and cargo is being misplaced.”
The knock-on effects from flight delays in China have also caused scheduling challenges for some European airports.
One handler explained that airline schedules and capacity were constantly shifting, hampering the ability to forecast and ensure sufficient staff numbers for handlers. He also pointed out that handlers were unable to flex their prices in the way airlines had.
“Lots of money is being made on cargo right now – but not in handling. We can’t flex our rates up and down. It’s a bit frustrating.
“You can add surcharges, but it’s difficult to get any degree of justification, only if you can prove a significant increase in cost. But we are now in a situation where our cost base has gone through the roof.”
He predicted the “cargo boom” would continue well into next year, and possibly 2023.
“It’ll take that amount of time for the passenger schedule to come back. A lot of it also depends on shipping getting on an even keel.”