Flexport’s own-operated air freight network grows

  • Charles Kauffman
  • March 9, 2018
  • 0

Western Global Airlines will soon begin operating a 747-400F between LAX and HKG on behalf of freight forwarder, Flexport. Photo source: Glenn Beltz, Wikimedia

In a sign that trans-Pacific air freight capacity remains tight, and rates volatile, yet another forwarder has signed on to dedicated freighter service. Earlier this week, Florida-based Western Global Airlines and US-based digital freight forwarder Flexport inked a three-year deal under which Western Global will operate regular 747-400F flights between Hong Kong (HKG) and Los Angeles (LAX) on behalf of Flexport.

In the past, forwarder-controlled networks have mostly been written-off as niche operations that would not be sustainable on a larger scale. But with signs that non-integrator controlled long-haul capacity will remain tight in the near-term, this trend could become more the norm, especially if robust air cargo demand persists.

Flexport first dabbled in trans-Pacific freighter charters last November when the dearth of air cargo capacity between Asia and North America prompted the company to charter an Atlas Air 747-400F for flights between Hong Kong and Los Angeles. The forwarder’s new arrangement with Western Global can be seen as an expansion of Flexport’s directly controlled air freight capacity.

Beginning on 5 April, Western Global will operate twice-weekly round-trip flights between North America, and Asia. A third weekly frequency will be added ahead of peak season, beginning next September. “This new partnership allows Flexport to offer predictable, affordable and a custom-tailored service to our customers with guaranteed capacity through seamless, dedicated scheduled service in the important Hong Kong to US markets,” said Neel Jones Shah, Flexport’s SVP and Global Head of Air Freight.

The city pairs chosen for the trans-Pacific flights come as no surprise. Flexport moves more freight between Hong Kong and Los Angeles than any other two cities and has been investing heavily in high-tech warehousing facilities in both cities. Flexport says it has the ability to quickly re-route in-transit cargo upon arrival in Los Angeles thanks to LAX’s position as a major multi-modal consolidation and deconsolidation point. In practice this means that a shipment arriving by ocean freight could be intercepted, re-labeled and sent to a different destination.

Although Flexport is the first known “digital” freight forwarder to invest in dedicated freighter flights, it is by no means the first freight forwarder to do so. Last December, Kalitta Airlines commenced thrice-weekly 747-400F flights between Chicago and Wuhan for China-based forwarder Apex Logistics (you can read more about that here). Switzerland-based Panalpina, meanwhile, has long experimented with long-term charters, as have other forwarders including Germany-based Senator International, which operates a dedicated trans-Atlantic network.

To hear more from Flexport, join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2018 in Shanghai from 23-25 April, where Neel Jones Shaw will speak on a panel dedicated to the future of air freight. To register, or for more information, visit http://www.cargofactsasia.com But hurry, early-bird registration ends today!

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