‘Digitalisation & sustainability critical for air cargo growth’

Belly capacity will be back and will carry most of the air cargo, while preighters will completely disappear. Cargo revenues are likely to decrease to US$ 111 billion, while cargo volumes may reach 61 million tonnes this year, says Rachel Yuting Fan, Sustainability and Economics, IATA.

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A ccording to a recent IATA report, “Yields are likely to decline in 2024, but they will still be above 2019 levels. Cargo revenue will also be about 11 per cent above 2019 and comprise 12 per cent of total industry revenue. In other words, this year will see sustained revenue growth and the sector outperform pre-COVID levels,” Rachel Yuting Fan, Sustainability and Economics, IATA, said.

The relevant economic markers are positive with 3.5 per cent growth in global trade projected for the year. Belly capacity will be back and will carry most of the air cargo, while preighters will completely disappear. Dedicated freighters will maintain their usual share of the market. Other factors, she said, include the continued growth of e-commerce, reduction in delivery times, and robust performance of high-value specialized products, such as pharma, which seems resilient to the industry’s usual volatility. Cargo revenues are likely to fall to US$111 billion this year, while cargo volumes are expected to reach 61 million tonnes.

“Now, the challenges and opportunities that we face are familiar to us and we will work hard to make progress in every aspect. The industry is better placed compared to 2019. We had an exceptional period during COVID and became financially stronger, efficient with advances in digitalisation, and were appreciated for the efforts that we all made to keep cargo going during a crisis,” Brendan Sullivan, Head, Cargo, IATA, said.

Addressing challenges

Digitalisation and sustainability will continue to be critical to air cargo’s growth. Rather than digitize documents, digitalisation must overcome 50-year-old legacy systems and embrace a true data-sharing environment. The problem is the varied data in air cargo, which covers different functions, stakeholders, and formats.

“ONE Record will help. It is an open standard that will connect the data and will be vital to digitalisation. It has been tested and validated by 200 companies for reliability and efficiency and all airlines must implement ONE Record by 1 January 2026,” Henk Mulder, Head, Digital Cargo, IATA said.

With ONE Record in place, there will be a unified approach to structuring air cargo data, which will facilitate consistency in information exchange. This data sharing will utilize advanced encryption and security protocols to protect sensitive information. Digitalisation will give air cargo not only the ability to serve e-commerce growth and smooth capacity fluctuations but also provide analytics to boost sustainability. Implementation of Preloading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI) will be a notable milestone in cargo security, Henk Mulder added.