Challenges and opportunities in air cargo

The challenges and opportunities in the air cargo industry were a key focus of the third session of the recent Payload Asia Conference. But despite the global challenges the industry has been facing over the last few years, the panellists expressed confidence that through collaboration the industry can put itself back on the track of success. By Donald Urquhart.

Challenges and opportunities in air cargo

Moderating the session, Glyn Hughes, global head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) kicked off the discussion by noting that at the TIACA forum a couple of months earlier it was mentioned by one industry analyst that the rise of 3D printing could impact air cargo by as much as 20 per cent once it fully develops.

Jim Edgar, regional director, market analysis at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, highlighted that while the manufacturer has invested heavily in 3D printing as part of their outsourcing, the originator of the 20 per cent figure had cautioned that the technology was still, “quite a work in progress”. Edgar also cautioned the industry not to take extreme positions and get too caught up and overly enamoured with these technological developments which are still very much embryonic, but on the other hand, he advised it isn’t wise to dismiss them either.

“It’s like anything in this industry we need to make sure we stay abreast of the developments, try to understand them and continually analyse and make an effort to be engaged, but by the same token, make sure we put it in perspective.”

Agreeing with Edgar’s point Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said he was much more Challenges and opportunities in air cargo concerned about a particular macro issue, that being the dematerialisation of the world economy into services. “Air cargo is about physical shipments, but we live in a world where miniaturisation is continually shrinking products and where services are growing faster than goods.” He cited the example of music, newspapers and books which are now electronic and increasingly don’t have a physical presence.