Supply chains spotlight: Soaring demand in the skies

By Alexandra Herdman, public policy manager, Logistics UK

Credit: Shutterstock

With the current disruption to deep sea shipping showing little sign of abating, many companies are looking towards air freight as an alternative, more reliable option for international logistics operations to protect the integrity of global supply chains.

As reported in the UK’s Daily Telegraph (November 2021), the air cargo sector is “booming” as a result of the ongoing problems with global shipping supply chains, with airfreight prices now two-and-a-half times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Global supply chains are highly complex and a series of issues – including port closures in the early Covid-19 pandemic and the infamous Ever Given container vessel that become struck in the Suez Canal – have had a devastating ripple effect on their efficiency.

Over the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has knocked the normal patterns of supply and demand out of kilter, placing the shipping industry under intense pressure.

Costs to move goods around the world have risen too as a result of the disruption: seaborne freight costs have soared to record highs, and by August 2021 had tripled year on year.

Although shipping costs are now coming down from their record highs, there remains a formidable logjam of ships to work through at many ports.

As we approach the festive season, increasing numbers of companies are utilising airfreight as a quick and reliable way to transport products to meet supply deadlines.

For example, Sony made headlines recently when it announced it had chartered several flights loaded with PlayStation 5 consoles to fly to Heathrow Airport to replenish UK supplies, to meet festive demand.

Logistics businesses are resilient and adaptable; the uptake we are seeing in air freight services is an example of how companies are not afraid to explore different avenues to be able to meet consumer demand for their products.

Airfreight is propping up the aviation industry, which we all know has been decimated by the pandemic.

When passenger travel picks up again, air freight will once again be battling for capacity as slots return to pre-pandemic rights.

It is time for air freight to be recognised as a vital part of the aviation industry and not a secondary service.  

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