Air cargo: still overshadowed by its passenger big sister

CARGO has always been a bit of a Cinderella business compared to its passenger big sister, but was the contrast between the two ever greater than it is today?
Neel Jones Shah, who quit a year ago as head of Delta Cargo, and who now has his own consultancy, JS Aviation Consulting, as well as acting as chief commercial officer for leading US perishables forwarder Able Freight Services, finds the difference quite striking.
He contrasts the self-confidence of the passenger business, which has successfully transitioned to electronic ticketing and which has billions to invest in upgrading its fleets, with the “struggling state” of many cargo businesses.
He sees airlines dragging their feet about e-freight and innovative cargo managers retiring and not being replaced. He asks who is outlining a bold new vision for air cargo, or arguing its case as an essential part of supply chains.
The contrast is perhaps most stark when it comes to investment in aircraft. “What is interesting is that fleet renewal on the passenger side is incredibly robust, with lots of B787s, B777s and A350s due to be delivered in the next few years. There have been hundreds of new widebody passenger aircraft orders recently but how many for freighters? How many freighters were ordered at the Paris Air Show?”
In particular, he asks how many of the leading freighter operators have a coherent plan for upgrading their fleets, never mind expanding them. “That is a pretty good indicator of which of them are going to survive as freighter operators in the longer term.”
You might feel that such a remark is a bit rich coming from Shah, who after all presided over a rapid dismantling of Northwest Airlines’ 14-strong freighter fleet when it merged with Delta. He certainly does not regret this decision, and thinks that more and more carriers will follow it.
Read Peter Conway’s full Interview in the next Air Cargo News 12 August 2013 – Issue No. 758
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