Air cargo customers could still face delays as airlines, forwarders and express operators struggle to restore normal service, following the massive disruption caused the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.
FedEx Express said it was running close to normal operations, but “due to the fluid nature of the movement of the volcanic ash, the company is still monitoring this situation very carefully. Inbound and outbound shipments to and from the affected areas may continue to experience some service delays.
“We recommend to continue to hold perishable, temperature control or dry ice shipments to intercontinental destinations until service is fully restored.”
Air freight wholesaler AMI said it was in contact with all carriers to whom cargo was delivered before the shutdown, securing re-bookings and issuing new flight confirmations to its customers.
AMI vice president Europe, Sharon Wright said cargo that was held by AMI in its own facilities at the time of the airspace shutdown was now being booked with carriers, mostly using AMI’s major pre-booked space allocations. “AMI is now open again for new bookings, which are also being fed into its pre-booked space.”
BIFA director general Peter Quantrill said: “We have to be realistic. By volume, international trade in goods relies more heavily on road, rail and sea freight than it does on airfreight. However, by value airfreight is responsible for around a quarter of international trade in goods and the disruption has caused real problems for those trading perishable goods, including food and flowers, vital pharmaceuticals, important medicines, electronic components and essential spare parts which depend on air freight.
“Air freight capacity was already quite tight on certain routes into and from the UK before last Thursday anyway.”
Some freight forwarders have been warning that air cargo rates will rise following the disruption.
Panalpina has warned customers that as soon as flight operations are back to normal, “additional capacity at higher cost will be required to clear backlog. Consequently airlines are implementing a rate increase with immediate effect and until further notice. Although Panalpina is working on optimising procurement in the customers’ interest, the present situation leaves no alternative but to pass on this rate increase.”
Kuehne + Nagel also warned customers: “The likely consequence could be a further increase in freight costs, in a market already short on capacity.”
The political row over the handling of the situation is likely to rumble on through the rest of the election campaign.
But AMI’s Sharon Wright said there were lessons that the industry could learn. “Airlines – particularly freighter operators – need to look at ways of working around a problem like this, by quickly adopting alternative gateways outside the no-fly zone, which we could then feed by road. On a government level, there must be a Europe-wide contingency plan in place, should such a situation ever arise again.”