Air cargo – 6% increase in volumes, yet still below pre-pandemic levels

May 31, 2022Expert Corner

The flow of passengers and the intensity of air traffic reported by Sofia Airport in May 2022 are still below the pre-pandemic levels. However, the volume of processed cargo and postal items increased more than 6% in April 2022 compared to 2019. This positive trend may not last long as the air carriers and their partners are now starting to feel the negative effects of the war in Ukraine that began in February this year.

“In order to avoid flying over the areas of military conflict, the airlines had to change very quickly the routes between Europe and Asia. This led to longer transit times and increased costs. Some airlines were forced to cancel flights, while others even stopped all the services to certain destinations.” said Daniela Dinkova, Project Manager Air Services at  GOPET TRANS. Consecutive economic and political crises are highlighting the stable market players, and GOPET TRANS is certainly one of them.

Indefinite period with higher prices and limitations in transport

The speed of delivery and the urgency of shipments are decisive when choosing air transport. Valuable or time-sensitive goods are most often transported by air – we can name here electronics, pharmaceuticals, auto and aircraft parts, cosmetics, food, flowers and similar products. Restrictions, such as new lockdowns in key regions in China, and in other countries to the East have shrunk even more the already limited cargo capacity not yet recovered from the pandemic. Furthermore, they’ve increased transport costs many times over to certain destinations. Industry experts predict that the trend of more expensive transport and restrictions will continue and it is difficult to say for how long. In this volatile economic landscape, not only airfreight, but all types of transport are faced with the challenge of coping with lack of capacity and the sharp change in prices.

We see some shifts in the markets. Due to the difficulties in finding container equipment and the drastic increase in the prices of maritime transport, we have more and more inquiries and actual shipments of goods considered until now as typical for sea freight. It happens nowadays that, in case of smaller batch of parcels, the rates for sea and air transport are almost equal and then it is more profitable for the customer to transport by plane because the delivery is significantly faster,says Daniela Dinkova.

The air service is the latest type of transport added by GOPET TRANS in their portfolio, and this way the Bulgarian company can offer now a full range of complex and secure transport solutions from door to door, regardless of the volume and deadlines. The air freight department was launched in 2019, just a few months before the pandemic. During the crisis period, however, the project was not put on hold. On the contrary, a year later GOPET TRANS was fully licensed for Bulgaria as IATA agent (IATA – International Air Transport Association). The company is now a recognised member of several networks of independent freight forwarders. Since the start of air freight operations, the results have been steadily increasing and in 2021 it reached YoY growth of  80% in the number of processed shipments, 120% in turnover and over 150% in the processed tonnage indicator. The turnover for January – April 2022 already exceeded the respective 2019 numbers and it is expected that 2022 will finish by doubling the previous year’s results.

“We did not stop air shipment services during the entire period of restrictions, they ran 24×7 thanks to our solid relationship and constant communication with our great partners handling our shipments either at the Sofia Airport or in all the other airports we use on a regular basis , adds Daniela Dinkova.

When restrictions hit, multimodality becomes an efficient solution

The use of different modes of transport can optimize price, route and/or transit times and eliminate some of the negative consequences of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Clarifying the specific needs of the customer is extremely important to us, because insufficient knowledge of the requirements for each particular transport sometimes leads to offering inapplicable or very expensive options. There are cases when GOPET TRANS processes shipments using its partner courier service providers or another unit within the company, which could better meet the requirements for the cargo. In addition to having partners in 193 out of 195 countries, meaning that the services provider offers transport options worldwide. The Bulgarian company has also subsidiaries in Greece, Romania, Turkey, Poland and Spain. Own offices and partners in Europe provide direct access to additional airlines, respectively a wider choice of transport solutions.

For instance, most air carriers delivering to Sofia are using small passenger planes, which comes with restrictions on shipment height and package weight. The bigger European airports – Amsterdam, Vienna, Frankfurt, London and others – allow access to larger passenger aircrafts, as well as many cargo aircrafts. When discussing combined transport solutions, we rely on extensive experience and network of Europe-wide destinations covered by our Road Division, which allows us better control over the cargoes and their delivery. This makes it possible for us to combine road and air transport and offer more efficient solutions to clients looking to optimize their flows and secure their deliveries.

T&L providers’ contribution to the green transition

Some of the practices helping to comply with the Toulouse Declaration, signed by 400 airports around the world aiming for zero net emissions in aviation by 2050, are to partner with air carriers with lower carbon footprint and to use digital copies of documents at forwarder’s site, and, if the airline is capable, fully electronic documents.

“We have taken all the steps to be among the first in Bulgaria to replace the paper AWB (air waybills) with an electronic one and starting June 1st we will implement it with the first airline that allows it, and later on we will apply it for everyone else,” said Daniela Dinkova.

Daniela Dinkova herself has joined the GOPET TRANS since the opening of the airfreight  department, but she has worked in the airfreight sector since 1998, including as the owner of a forwarding company. “I know the advantages, but also all the disadvantages of being a smaller player. The reason I joined GOPET was the opportunity to offer a comprehensive  range of solutions  to  clients,  competitive pricing and security of shipments,  while making sure they get personalized focus and attention.”