During a roundtable panel discussion at the 8th annual Cargo Facts Asia symposium held earlier this month in Shanghai, executives from Cainiao and the Volga-Dnepr Group discussed whether e-commerce might one day be the key to balanced loads on freighter aircraft. After all, freighters, just like passenger aircraft, need to fly roundtrip.
“Load imbalance has always been an issue faced by freighter carriers, but over the past few years, yields and volumes have improved,” said Joanna Li, VP Strategic Partnerships, Asia & Pacific, Volga-Dnepr Group. At present, however, e-commerce is not really leading to better balance because of the industry’s reliance on seasonal charter flights. Although cross-border e-commerce may drive demand for certain commodities such as seafood or other fresh perishables, particularly during online shopping sales, many of these origins cannot support year-round scheduled commercial flights, said Li.
Terry Xie, Head of Global Linehaul & Planning, Cainiao, concurred that spikes in air cargo demand resulting from shopping holidays were heavily reliant on charters. At Cainiao, “We are trying to create balance,” said Xie. One strategy being employed by Cainiao’s parent, Alibaba, is to move away from global sales promotions, and towards localized shopping holidays. Doing so, could facilitate balanced loads.
Looking ahead, Li was optimistic that e-commerce could “support balance,” even for commercial carriers.
Check out highlights from the discussion below, which is part of a special video series sponsored by ATR.