Staff shortage slows down air cargo and bags

Photos of the world's largest cargo plane, reduced to a husk at Hostomel airport, Ukraine, were revealed.

Staff shortage slows down air cargo and bags

Photos of the world's largest cargo plane, reduced to a husk at Hostomel airport, Ukraine, were revealed. Dan Morgan-Evans recalls the numerous times his company chartered the aircraft for urgent freight deliveries.

This includes personal protective equipment (PPE), antigen tests, and transporting Christmas trees.

The Antonov An-225 Mirya flew four times from China to Ireland in the lead-up to Christmas 2021. Each flight carried 130 tons of Christmas trees. High Street retailers were under immense pressure at the time to sell their products.

Mr Morgan-Evans says, "Those were the last charters that we did with it," It was pure madness.

People who need to quickly transport goods have always considered air freight the best and most expensive option.

The pandemic has caused problems in the container shipping sector, which has pushed more businesses to air freight. However, it is also facing challenges.

According to the International Air Transport Association, thousands of workers were lost in the cargo handling industry during the pandemic. There is now a "severe shortfall" in skilled ground handlers who can move goods.

Niall van de Wouw is chief air freight officer at Xeneta and identifies the shortage as a major problem.

He says that there is sufficient capacity in the air, but not enough on the ground. The current situation is a "bottleneck".

He adds that truck drivers, people loading planes or ships, and people in warehousing all seem to have a problem finding people on the lower end of pay scale.

He suggested that some of the problems facing the industry can be attributed to the inability to value cargo handling as a service, and to the low wages of staff.

Many cargo handling companies are keeping their distance from the situation. IAG Cargo announced recently its largest ever recruitment drive, with 500 positions available. A spokeswoman for IAG Cargo declined to comment on the progress of the plan.

A spokeswoman for dnata said that while it is not immune to the challenges faced by the industry, the company is "relatively well-placed" to face them.

Swissport's spokesperson said that they are not experiencing staff shortages that would affect their cargo operations.

Peter Drummond, director, baggage at Sita, says that attractive terms are essential to attract people to any business.

Drummond also noted that there is a shortage in passenger baggage handlers. He notes that it takes time to find these workers and perform the security checks.

According to Sita, mishandling rates - where bags are left behind or sent to the wrong place - rose in 2021 over 2020.

From a low point of 3.5, the number of bags mishandled per 1,000 passengers rose from 3.0 to 4.35. However, it is still below the 2019 rate of 5.6 and significantly lower than that of 2007.

Although international flights are 4.5 times more likely than domestic ones to mishandle your bags, Mr Drummond says that the likelihood of this happening is still "quite low".

He suggests that even though the aviation industry is short-staffed, it is investing more in technology such as Sita's that automatically tracks bags while they pass through airports.

Other than staffing, there are other constraints on the sector.

Jess Nitsche is a photographer and designer who lives in Southern California. She owns Aixela Studio which sells photographs, clothing, and decorative items online.

She says that some of her products are printed in China, then shipped to the US. However, lead times have increased by two-thirds.

Ms. Nitsche uses air freight to ship her products overseas, but she says it is less reliable than domestic shipping.

According to her, delays can be partly caused by disinfection processes that affect shipments from certain parts of the globe. Experts suggest that there is very little risk of Covid-19 being transmitted via mail. However, Chinese authorities insist that all packages must be disinfected.

Businesses that can afford it may opt to charter aircraft or buy their own cargo planes.

According to Mr Morgan-Evans Air Charter Service has experienced a significant spike in business. He estimates that volumes increased by around 400% between 2021 and 2021.

Chartering companies can, and do, push airports to make sure they have the staff to load and unload premium flights, Mr Morgan-Evans says.

Technology for business:

Helane Becker is a market analyst at Cowen and forecasts that there will be a cooling in demand for logistics services after an "unprecedented” situation. This prediction was made by Helane Becker.

Morgan-Evans believes there will be a lot of demand for chartered cargo services during the last quarter of the year. However, he acknowledges that inflation is likely to reduce overall consumer demand.

He wonders if people are still willing to pay high prices on certain products in the face of rising inflation.

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