BIFA questions ground handler surcharges amid Covid-19 disruption

By Rachelle Harry

Robert Keen, BIFA director general

UK forwarder group British International Freight Association (BIFA) has questioned if surcharges imposed by cargo handlers are justifiable in the current economic circumstances, suggesting that competition authorities could be interested in the development.

Recent weeks have seen a range of cargo handlers introduce the surcharges saying that they are necessary to maintain quality of service as the number of flights they handle has dropped as a result of the cancellation of passenger services.

Robert Keen, BIFA director general, explained: “Every participant in international supply chains is suffering from the same financial and operational issues that ground handlers face, as they attempt to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.

“Circumstances like shelter-in-place regulations are causing strain on all companies in those supply chains, which are all having to implement painful measures to cope with the pandemic, with a huge financial impact on their businesses.

“BIFA members are now faced with the task of explaining the surcharges to their customers, which are also struggling, without understanding, nor necessarily agreeing with, the rationale behind them.

“They deserve a full explanation of why and how the surcharges were decided upon, and evidence that ground handlers are not just using the opportunities presented by the difficulties to increase charges for services already provided.

“As the ground handling companies made their announcements, which are remarkably similar in content and value, around the same date, BIFA is left wondering whether the proposed surcharges might be of interest to the relevant competition authorities.”

It is not just in the UK that forwarders have questioned the surcharges. Air Cargo News sister title DVZ reported that in Germany The Federal Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics (DSLV) has pointed out that “a contract would first be required in order to be entitled to compensation or surcharge” after Swissport introduced a surcharge in the country.

For reasons of legal security, all those addressed should avoid the impression that “they are (tacitly) ready to pay the required special levy”, the association said.

The association therefore believes that it makes sense for affected companies to make it clear to Swissport “that there is no entitlement to the surcharge neither from a contract nor from any other legal reason and that they are unwilling to pay it”.

DVZ reported that Swissport now charges a surcharge of €19 for shipments of up to 500 kg. The amount increases up to €30 for shipments over five tonnes.

Cargo in connection with Covid-19, for which the special treatment code “COV” is stated on the air waybill, is excluded.

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