Cargo handlers respond to forwarder criticism of Covid-19 surcharge

By Damian Brett

Cargo handlers Menzies Aviation and Swissport have respond to freight forwarders’ criticism of surcharges introduced following the coronavirus outbreak.

The handlers explained to Air Cargo News that the cost of their cargo operations had increased as a result of the reduction in passenger flights.

Swissport said that the primary objective of its surcharge is to maintain supply chains.

“Due to the loss of almost all passenger flights and their cargo capacities, we can no longer rely on stable and recurrent flight schedules on the basis of which we plan capacities,” Swissport explained. “Today we have primarily irregular peaks (charter). This leads to a dramatically worse cost structure at Swissport. We now have to pass on some of these additional costs to our customers.”

Menzies Aviation said that it had announced surcharges in some markets across our global cargo network as a direct result of the significant downturn in global cargo volumes caused by Covid-19.

“This does not include any cargo classified on the airwaybill as Covid-19 such as medicines, medical equipment, PPE etc,” the handler explained.

“We have determined that this measure is necessary to keep our operations going at those key stations where we have experienced the most significant volume reductions. We are keen to play our part in maintaining movement in global supply chains.”

The statement added that the surcharge is not intended to fully absolve us of the impact of Covid-19 and that it has not implemented across all locations but is required to help “contribute to our ability to maintain our operations in the most severely impacted markets”.

Earlier this week, UK freight forwarder association BIFA hit out at the introduction of the surcharge.

“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,” the organisation said.

“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.”

The group went on to question whether competition authorities could be interested in the surcharges as “the ground handling companies made their announcements, which are remarkably similar in content and value, around the same date”.

In response to this, Menzies said that it could not comment on the decisions of any other cargo handlers “nor any rationale for their actions as we don’t have sight of that”.

“Our intent with our decision is simply to ensure our stations remain operational,” the company added.

It is not just in the UK where forwarders have questioned the surcharge. In Germany,  Air Cargo News sister title DVZ reported that 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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