Amazon Air's first parcels being unloaded at Amazon.com's new Cincinnati (US) sort hub. Source: Amazon.com.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, air transport was reserved primarily for items with high value and/or time sensitivity, such as laptop computers or express documents. And growing competition in the cargo market meant that average yield (revenue per ton-mile) was declining by more than 2% per year, according to past editions of Boeing’s World Air Cargo Forecast.
But now the cost of sea transport has exploded, shifting a significant chunk of cargo from ocean freighters to their airborne equivalents. This is driving some retailers to use air transport. Home Depot, an American home-improvement retailer, is resorting to air freight to bring in smaller, higher-value items like power tools that it needs to keep on the shelves at all times.
Even before COVID-19, a growing share of air freight has come from e-commerce — thereby shifting the volume-to-weight considerations relative to “traditional” freight.
Will these trends continue even beyond the COVID crisis? And what impact will it have on the market for factory-built freighters and passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions?
Soaring sea freight yields mean small shipments are now more economic by air than sea.
Volumetric capacity matters more than max gross weight.
New freighter options will compete with a glut of conversion feedstock.
Air freight yields will eventually revert to historical trendlines in most regions.