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Maintaining Critical Supply Chains with Cargo Charter

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, many people around the world became used to empty shelves in stores, as supply chains struggled to cope. While these issues have largely been remedied, sustained high demand across eCommerce and a newly emerged PPE market have meant cargo aircraft charter continues to play a valuable role in bridging the gaps in capacity.

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Richard Smith

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Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, many people around the world became used to empty shelves in stores, as supply chains struggled to cope. Because the implications of supply chain breakdown were felt at consumer level, the issue gained international media attention. Industry and critical supplies were affected just as badly – but behind the scenes, work was ongoing to close the gaps in supply chains using air freight.

Using Cargo Charter to Manage Capacity During C-19

At the onset of lockdowns in major cities, global trade and supply chains came to an almost complete standstill. The shipping sector was particularly hard hit, as cargo vessels were placed under quarantine for two weeks before even being allowed into port. Shipping containers were stuck, unable to move through state borders.

Air cargo has had limitations imposed, too – but nothing like those placed on shipping freighters.

Almost all operators have found themselves without passengers to transport – but instead of grounding their fleet entirely, some have repurposed their offering to fulfil air cargo charter demands.

As the demand for cargo increases and traditional transportation capacity falls, air cargo charter is proving to be invaluable in closing the gaps in capacity.

Maintaining the movement of goods isn’t just vital for food and vital medical supplies – it’s essential for economic stability in the face of a cliff-edge recession.

Supply Chain Issues

The consumer-facing shortages of toilet paper, staple foods, over the counter drugs and hand sanitiser were initially blamed on panic-buying by selfish members of the public. Studies since have shown that stockpilers accounted for just 3% of shoppers in the UK during early lockdown, and that the problem is a result of the ultra-efficient, “just in time” supply chains that supermarkets use.

These supply chain issues have now mostly been remedied, thanks to the hard work and dedication of producers and logistics teams. But with eCommerce exploding around the world, another shortage is looming.

For restocking, postage and delivery, many online sales outlets rely on the belly hold capacity of scheduled flights; it’s cheap, fast transport for lightweight and compact goods. It’s usually very reliable and has helped prop up the postal service and supply chains, using the excellent infrastructure of airports.

But with scheduled flights all but grounded, belly hold capacity is all but gone.

We’re looking at a 95% reduction in scheduled passenger flights, and a 74% growth in average transaction volumes of online sales. There’s a major shortfall – and consumers are noticing.

The fall in belly hold capacity means that stock levels are slow to be replenished and customers are having to wait even longer for their items to arrive – sometimes months.

In the face of shortages, some organisations are using cargo charter to fulfil their requirements – and ACC has been facilitating the transition.

A New Market Emerges

At the beginning of the outbreak, a whole new market emerged for personal protective equipment (PPE). The pandemic created monumental demand for facemasks, visors, gloves and disposable overclothes – none of which could be manufactured or delivered fast enough.

PPE in storage helped to bridge the gap in manufacturing, but moving critical equipment was still challenging due to the volumes required. Air cargo is the fastest and most direct solution – and the demand for PPE further stimulated the already growing cargo charter market.

ACC has been flexible in meeting the demand created by this new market.

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