Panalpina boss on peak season: “airfreight capacity alone will not save the day”

Panalpina chief executive Stefan Karlen has warned that “airfreight capacity alone will not save the day” in air cargo’s looming peak season, adding that “smooth operations on the ground will be equally important”.
Karlen said that this year’s airfreight market is “not quite as strong” as in 2017, although rates remain high: “They continue to be 15%-20% higher than last year and we will see further increases as we inch towards the fourth quarter of the year”
The Panalpina boss was speaking at a customer event in Italy to celebrate 80 years of business in Europe’s fashion capital, which also saw the Switzerland-based logistics giant fly in its Boeing 747-8F for an exclusive event at Milan’s Malpensa Airport.
Karlen, speaking further about the global airfreight peak season, due to begin in two weeks, added: “Same as last year, we have prepared meticulously for peak season in terms of securing capacity for our customers.
“But this year, we are even taking it one step further; we also have a strong focus on readiness on the ground.
“Not only have we been talking to customers and airlines, but also to ground handling agents at airports and trucking companies. For our customers, we are doing everything possible to prevent bottlenecks and potential delays on the ground.
“Capacity alone will not save the day this year, smooth operations on the ground will be equally important.”
Karlen also talked about the importance of airfreight for Italy and Panalpina, “the need for speed for the Italian high fashion industry” and Panalpina’s charter network.
He said: "The US and China are the most important airfreight origin and destination markets for Italy as a country, and also for Panalpina.
"In Italy, we currently have a market share of around 3% in airfreight, and of around 1% in ocean freight.”
He continued: The country is Europe’s fourth largest airfreight market, and 52% of Italy’s airfreight exports and imports run through Malpensa Airport. That makes Malpensa Italy’s most important airport for cargo.
"So far this year, Panalpina Italy’s Airfreight volumes grew by 3%-4%, twice as much as the market. Airfreight growth for us mainly came from fashion as well as consumer and retail.
"Through our Charter Network, we organize around 1,500 dedicated charters per year. From this very airport we will operate at least three charter flights to New York in November and December, mainly for fashion customers.
Karlen highlighted Panalpina’s solutions for high fashion customers as one of the areas where the company "excels", saying that speed matters in the fast-paced age of e-commerce and social media.
He said: “Increasingly, we are asked by Italian fashion companies to send their goods directly to the stores in the destination markets, bypassing local distribution centers.
“We pick up the products at the factory or distribution center here in Italy, organize last-mile delivery to the store in Hong Kong and even unpack and scan the products at the store and leave again with the empty boxes.”
The event at Malpensa was attended by more than 100 guests.
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