The impact of weather on air cargo operations

By Dan Slagen, guest columnist


When it comes to the impact of lightning, hail, snow, or even high winds, airfreight companies must adjust and adapt quickly. This is exactly why weather intelligence is becoming even more important to the airfreight industry.

The one thing air cargo airlines have in common is their daily fight against the weather on a global scale. Consider some of the following statistics currently facing the air cargo industry:

  • Every minute a plane is delayed costs roughly $75
  • Total delay costs are more than $1bn per year
  • Unexpected weather causing choppy air and turbulence costs carriers in the US alone approximately $100m per year
  • On average, US carriers waste 160m gallons of fuel due to course and altitude changes due to weather
  • Cargo damage consistently costs millions in both financial and procedural headaches

In addition, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ most recent report showed that weather is the reason for 33% of delays.

The main weather elements impacting cargo operations include things like lightning, high winds, precipitation, visibility, cloud cover, and extreme temperatures.

Due to the unexpectedness and frequency of some or all of these weather elements depending on the location, each of these factors have to be monitored individually 24/7 — a nearly impossible task for any operations team.

Additionally, teams not only need to know about incoming weather, but also what it means for their operations and what decisions need to be made which are even more difficult.

Let’s say for instance, the weather forecast is showing a 50% chance of lightning, what is to be done?

The problem is that most people are using various weather data providers or apps to get their information, and ultimately people will be more conservative if they don’t know what information to trust.

It may sound like a good thing, but the compounding financial impact of being incorrect time after time each month is what produces the more than $1bn in unnecessary costs and delays.

Cargo teams need help understanding the upcoming weather, what it means for them, and what decisions need to be made. That’s why using weather intelligence is the answer.

Platforms that monitor weather data from various sources, automatically connect the impact of that upcoming weather against the operational protocols, and visualizes all of the decisions that need to be made.

Understanding the weather and having weather intelligence can improve on-time performance, reduce delays, improve flight planning, increase safety and asset protection and centralize a single source for weather communications across the team.

Dan Slagen is the chief marketing officer of weather intelligence platform ClimaCell.

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