Schiphol tests digital tool to maximise bellyhold cargo

Amsterdam Schiphol airport, faced by a constraint on freighter aircraft slots, is offering airline planners the chance to test a digital tool that will maximise bellyhold cargo capacity on intercontinental routes.
It is claimed that there is “significant unused belly capacity” on North American routes and that utilising a percentage of that spare space would bring increased revenue for airlines.
The analysis is contained in a discussion paper published by the Netherlands airport, Collaborating in times of capacity constraints, in which the Schiphol management team takes a hard look at the issues facing not only Europe’s third largest cargo hub by tonnages, but the sector as a whole.
The document states: “We are open to validate this tool and its outcomes with airlines and to further discussing the opportunities. We have already seen trials of express packages being loaded into special boxes and loaded/unloaded through the luggage system.
“Will this work in lots of different circumstances? And most importantly, will it increase yield for airlines? Those are the questions we will always ask.”
The five page document states that the global split between freighter and belly volume is about 60:40, and while freighters making up only 3% of aircraft movements, main deck aircraft remain very important to the airport and the cargo community.
“Unfortunately, the limit on air traffic movements (ATM), makes adding more freighter flights difficult. The good news is that we see opportunities for filling unused belly capacity. But we recognize that in order to profit from this potential we need to change the culture and mindset to some extent.”
The paper acknowledges that airlines base route-operating decisions on passenger considerations while cargo is seen as “secondary” despite its “significant” potential for increased yield from pharma and perishables airfreight.
The paper states that the “main barrier” to this premium freight may be the perceived risk related to turnaround times: “Loading and offloading cargo takes time and the potential for delays increases significantly as those volumes grow.”
It asks: “So how can we all work together to ensure the entire supply chain – from the origin to destination, including ground handlers, airport and Customs – runs like clockwork to eliminate that risk?
“Increased digitalization will help everyone in the chain to know exactly where shipments are, so each player can have their resources ready to handle it and keep it on schedule for optimal and efficient (off)loading of the aircraft.”
It continues: “Increased digitalization will help everyone in the chain to know exactly where shipments are, so each player can have their resources ready to handle it and keep it on schedule for optimal and efficient (off) loading of the aircraft.
“Higher levels of transparency could also highlight spare belly capacity and create the opportunity to match it with what needs to fly. Maybe the mindset needs to change here as well, with greater levels of information exchange and cargo ‘code-sharing’ among airlines, GSAs, forwarders and shippers.
“The fact that passenger flights are so tightly scheduled has the opposite effect on risk for shippers of time-sensitive goods. They will feel more confident that their shipments will arrive on schedule, compared with using freighters which are likely to be more subject to timetable changes.”
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