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The Important Role Air Cargo Plays in the Global Supply Chain


The Important Role Air Cargo Plays in the Global Supply Chain

For over a century now, air cargo has played a crucial role in getting time-sensitive and high-value shipments from one point to another as quickly as possible. The world’s first cargo flight was in 1910. Since then, air cargo and private cargo shipping have played a crucial role in transporting time-sensitive and high-value goods internationally and domestically.

Over the years, air transport has also proven to be a key “connector” between the manufacturers and the consumers. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, shipments that took too long to get from one point to another were quickly transported via air.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air cargo has played a pivotal role in delivering much-needed medical equipment (including repair components and spare parts) and medicines.

Air cargo has also kept the global supply chains functioning for time-sensitive materials. This was carried out by utilizing cargo capacity in passenger aircraft, dedicated cargo freighter operations, and relief flights to affected areas.

IATA added that airfreight had been used to transport a staggering $6 trillion worth of goods annually. This represents at least 35 percent of all global trade by value. However, it is less than 1% of the trade when measured by volume.

The imbalance between value and volume can be attributed to the fact that most of the products that are shipped via air have a high value. Within a given 24-hour period, air cargo providers around the world have:

-Utilized over 100,000 airplanes

-Transported over 20 million parcels

-Shipped a whopping $18.6 billion worth of cargo

Economic Benefits of Air Transport

The air transport industry has a massive and significant impact on other industries and is also considered a growth facilitator. It also affects the global economy’s performance by enhancing the efficiency of other industries across the entire spectrum of economic activity. This is also referred to as “spin-off” or catalytic benefits.

Air transport helps facilitate world trade.

Air transport has allowed countries to participate in the global market by giving them access to primary markets and allowing globalization. Air transport also helps countries to specialize in activities where they have comparative advantage. It also helps facilitate trade with countries that provide other goods and services.

Air transport has been indispensable in the tourism industry.

Air cargo is especially useful for tourism on the island and remote destinations. Tourism directly supports employment in airports and airlines. Spending of tourists and visitors that arrive by air also creates a significant number of jobs in the tourism space.

Air transport boosts global productivity.

Improved air transport links have been pivotal in helping global markets expand. As a result, companies can exploit economies of scale better. This reduces cost dramatically and, as mentioned earlier, allows companies to specialize in areas of comparative advantage.

As more markets open up, air services can introduce companies to more competition and encourage them to become more efficient in the process.

Air transport improves supply chain efficiency.

Countless industries utilize air transport to reduce delivery times as part of the “just-in-time” delivery systems. This will reduce costs and enable companies to deliver products to customers reliably and quickly.

Air transport encourages effective collaboration and networking.

Air transport has been helping promote collaboration and networking among companies from different parts of the world. An excellent transport infrastructure also encourages companies to spend more on development and research.

Final Thought

As the world continues to deal with the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, air transport will continue to play an increasingly vital role in keeping the world’s supply chains running smoothly.


Melissa Hull is the Content Marketing Strategist for Aviation Charters, a West Trenton, New Jersey-based private aviation company that provides on-demand aircraft charter, aircraft management, and aircraft acquisition services. Aside from her passion for writing, she loves to travel and read espionage books.

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How the Air Cargo Industry is Taking on COVID-19

The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic shook the aviation sector to its core. The economic crisis and travel bans and restrictions have severely hampered international transportation and the global air freight industry. Data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that global volumes and international cargo are significantly lower than in 2019.

Despite the apparent decline in numbers, the jet cargo industry is showing signs of steady recovery. It is safe to say that, from an economic point of view, airlines with cargo-diversified revenue streams are surviving and have managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic.

Adapt to Survive

The aviation industry is doing its best to adapt and ensure business survival in a changing world. Although world trade and passenger transport hit an all-time low during the main period of the pandemic, both commercial aviation and air charter sectors were able to modify their systems and services to meet the demands of the times and, of course, their clients.

We have seen passenger and private jet companies use their experience and expertise to cater to changing business requirements and emergency scenarios. From personnel repatriation to emergency evacuations — and sometimes even stepping into disrupted freight supply lines to ensure the delivery of essential goods.

Demand Response

Airline companies have shifted their focus throughout the pandemic and dedicated their efforts towards the successful transport of COVID-19 supplies and accommodating the exponential demand for essential COVID-19 commodities.

Cargo jets with climate-controlled facilities have seized business opportunities in freights that require highly regulated and temperature-controlled specifications, including the distribution of billions of COVID vaccines worldwide. In addition, airline companies are retrofitting their passenger planes for cargo to capture more specialized segments, especially those that require time urgency and delicate handlings, such as pharmaceuticals, PPEs, medical equipment, and perishables.

More and more companies are also turning to air charters for reliable transport of complex and time-critical deliveries. Compared to other methods of transport, air charters stand out as the most efficient end-to-end solution as they have access to more airfields and can be deployed in a matter of hours.

Emerging Opportunities

The pandemic has been broadly destructive for the aviation industry. Still, it has contributed to accelerating the global transition to e-commerce, which is set to benefit the cargo transportation industry for the foreseeable future.

While e-commerce was already on an uptrend even before the pandemic, it has risen faster than anticipated due to recent changes in consumer purchasing behaviors. According to data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, COVID-19 hastened the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by, more or less, five years.

With people becoming more inclined to shop online, e-commerce volumes continue to rise amid the pandemic. Shipment-focused aviation services are currently taking advantage of this market shift.

Going Forward

The air cargo sector is demonstrating impressive flexibility and adaptability in handling the challenges and repercussions of COVID-19 in the industry. Still, from a vantage point, the future of global air freight service seems bright, and all set for growth.

The pandemic has opened new doors and opportunities for cargo. As the demand for specialized freight services and e-commerce rises, global trade will eventually regain its foothold. And the cargo industry will fly high again.


About the Author

Melissa Hull is the Content Marketing Strategist for Aviation Charters, a West Trenton, New Jersey-based private aviation company that provides on-demand aircraft charter, aircraft management, and aircraft acquisition services. Aside from her passion for writing, she loves to travel and read espionage books.