Date: 07.10.2020

Metro resume twin UK air hub operations

The air freight market remains in a very different environment, to pre-pandemic conditions, with the vast majority of the world’s passenger aircraft fleet grounded and air cargo capacity a fraction of what it should be.

During September we observed steady price increases by the remaining operating airlines on all routes, with a 20% increase added to an already high rate level. 

Average rates on services from Asia to North America and Europe are over 3x the level they would usually be at this time of year. However, the levels are half of the highs reached in Quarter 2 during the lockdown period.

This came as there was huge demand to transport personal protective equipment, when so much capacity had been taken out of the market.

Since then the urgency of demand has reduced, but load factors remain high and with volumes squeezing capacity, this trend will continue. We have been notified of rate increases into Quarter 4 of 2020. 

Since the end of the lockdown, the number of airline and ground-handling staff returning from furlough has been limited and operational efficiency is diminished by Covid safe-working and cleaning protocols. 

With reduced capacity and high load factors, additional air freight volumes on many routes over the last 6 weeks has placed huge pressure on global air freight infrastructure that is already under strain, resulting in delays at origin airports, delays getting freight onto planes and delays at destination airports, exacerbated by congestion, that becomes self-perpetuating.

Particularly congested lanes are Bangladesh, South East Asia, China (pre Golden week) and in general the Indian subcontinent. In addition the Transatlantic routes have been very busy also over recent weeks.

Carriers have generally withdrawn any long term rate agreements and contracts in favour of ‘dynamic pricing’, which is based on demand per flight, on the previous day or day of departure, to guarantee the highest revenues. 

Such pricing regimes are difficult to manage effectively from a freight perspective, which is why Metro leverage our partner airlines and global network relationships to ensure reliable and cost effective air freight solutions are delivered. 

Against this most challenging of markets, we have had our busiest air freight month in September based on volumes and this trend is continuing as we enter October.

Emirates joined the increasing number of major carriers serving Birmingham International Airport, with B777 flights four times a week and has announced it will resume flights to a further 31 European destinations over October and November.

With the increased support of key carrier partners Metro has recommenced routing air freight traffic directly to our Birmingham Airport based facilities as well as trucking consignments directly from mainland Europe and Southern based airports, as built up intact units.

We are dividing volumes between Heathrow and Birmingham facilities taking advantage of creative ways to ensure we avoid congestion at many of the UK and Europe’s air freight hubs, by transferring import cargo in intact airlines units directly into our ETSF (bonded warehouse) facilities.

Metro are well positioned with our dual hub platform in the UK and we continue to grow our award winning air freight services as the most rapid development area of the Metro portfolio of services.

For further information and options on air freight services please contact Elliot Carlile or Grant Liddell for immediate assistance and advice on your urgent air freight movements.