Lufthansa Cargo: why the future is bright for airfreight

24 January 2023

Lufthansa Cargo: why the future is bright for airfreight

THE GLOBAL air logistics sector continues to face turbulent market conditions, writes Nigel Tomkins. But, after three years in crisis mode, “a normalising market” is now in sight, according to European freighter and belly-hold airline Lufthansa Cargo.

In its latest annual air cargo market review, the German carrier is optimistic about the year 2023 – and is particularly upbeat about current fundamental trends such as the continuation of the digitalisation of air cargo processes and improved sustainability, a statement points out.

“The peak phases of the COVID pandemic clearly demonstrated the importance of airfreight as an indispensable component of global supply chains,” the carrier observes. “This made the past crisis years all the more challenging for the industry.”

In normal times, half of the world’s airfreight shipments are carried as supplementary cargo on passenger jets, and the temporary shutdown of many fleets led to a considerable loss of cargo capacity in the period.

“Although there will continue to be strained supply chains, partly due to global dynamics, Lufthansa Cargo nevertheless expects increasing freight capacities to help ease the situation in the coming year. Above all, the continuous increase in [returning] passenger flights and the outlook for a reopening Asian market allow us to look to the future with confidence,” it adds.

Recent years have shown that global trade is resilient and there continues to be growth markets. “Airfreight has always been dynamic and volatile and flexibility is and will continue to be in demand in the future,” says Dorothea von Boxberg, chairman of the airline’s executive board and chief executive of Lufthansa Cargo.

Although the year 2023 will not undergo any fundamental changes in strategy, the airline will continue to drive measures already underway and maintain a forward-looking willingness to learn, with digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI) as major competitive factors.

During the pandemic years, the majority of industries in the world experienced the emergence of increased digitalisation. Lufthansa Cargo believes this trend will continue in the airfreight sector – and at an accelerated pace. “Networking through the intelligent use of data and the increasing automation of processes will become performance and competitive factors for the industry,” she adds.

“Even before the pandemic, topics like digitalisation and AI were important. In airfreight, there are still many opportunities to use data to add value and interact with partners in real time. The industry is characterised by the fact that we collaborate very strongly across the board.”

One example of this is the ‘Digitales Testfeld Air Cargo’ nationwide research project of the German Federal Ministry of Transport (BMVI), an initiative which is being coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML). “We are pleased to be a project partner [in this] to help position Germany as an air cargo location for international competition in the future,” says von Boxberg.

Another defining air cargo industry trend is the subject of sustainability. “The future of airfreight logistics will continue to be driven to a large extent by the issue of sustainability,” says the statement. “Today, the industry is already making a diverse contribution to climate protection.”

In addition to CO2 neutrality on the ground, such as via vehicle electrification or solar installations on warehouse roofs, Lufthansa Cargo believes that aircraft fleet modernisation will be indispensable to further advance the sustainability of the aircraft as a means of transport. “However, it is also important that regulations on quotas of sustainable aviation fuels are designed to ensure fair competitive conditions,” the statement adds.

“For us, sustainability is a very special priority. We have set ourselves the 2030 ambitious goal of halving our CO2 emissions-per-kilogram when flying. Efficient flying and expanding the use of sustainable fuels are the focus,” von Boxberg reveals.

“But to really make a difference, we need to think holistically about this issue and also take smaller measures such as loading equipment optimisation and recycling seriously. We are convinced that every contribution counts.”

By: Nigel Tomkins