A Look at the Future of the Air Cargo Industry

Air Cargo Industry

Tamanna Bhatia

Air Cargo Industry

With the growth in eCommerce, emerging new manufacturing hubs and rise of the middle class in developing markets – the skies are blue and clear for the air cargo industry. While there might be some turbulence due to the slowing of the economy, the demand will continue to rise, and air cargo will continue to profit.

A few years ago, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a study identifying a quantitative link between a country’s air cargo connectivity and its participation in global trade. According to the study by IATA, 1 per cent increase in air cargo connectivity was associated with a 6.3% increase in a country’s total trade. Isn’t that quite interesting!

Brian Pearce, Chief Economist at IATA at that time was quoted, saying, “Air cargo is key in supporting the current global trading system. In 2015, airlines transported 52.2 million metric tons of goods, representing about 35% of global trade by value. That is equivalent to US$ 5.6 trillion worth of goods annually, or US$ 15.3 billion worth of goods every day. We now have quantitative evidence of the important link between air cargo connectivity and trade competitiveness.

It’s is in the economic interest for governments to promote and implement policies for the efficient facilitation of air cargo.”

In 2017, Air cargo traffic grew 10.1 per cent, which is more than double the long-term average growth rate. As per the forecast, air cargo traffic is expected to more than double, and the world freighter fleet will grow by more than 75 per cent in the next 20 years. The trends shaping the air cargo market include the growth in eCommerce. Global retail e-commerce sales were $2.3 trillion in 2017 compared to $1.1 trillion spent in 2012. This trend will continue, and the e-commerce market size will double again by 2021, reaching nearly $4.9 trillion.


The region leading the growth in annual air cargo is Asia. The economy in this region is growing, and there is a rise in middle classes which has more disposable income. The top market share is held by China followed by Japan. The improving Japanese economy, as well as rising global demand for electronics, automotive parts, are helping the airfreight market in reaching greater heights. India is also playing a leading role in this market. India is one of the fastest-growing civil aviation markets in the world and will soon be amongst first three markets with about 420 million passengers being handled by the Indian airport in 2020 as against 140 million in 2010.

Air Cargo Industry

By 2025, the domestic air freight demand is expected to touch 1.1 million tonnes at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR). This is projected due to these reasons: the rapidly growing e-commerce activity (almost up to 9 per cent), increasing capacity and improving airline connectivity to smaller cities. Air Cargo business has overtaken the ocean freight & rail freight market, and India is one of the few global markets that has witnessed near double-digit growth continuously for the past two decades.

Air Cargo Industry

Besides India, Thailand and Vietnam are also contributing to the growth of air cargo as these two countries have developed into major manufacturing hubs.

Worldwide, Air cargo faced some difficulty due to the fall in global trade volumes and slowing down of the economy. “Protectionism, trade friction, BREXIT, and anti-globalisation rhetoric are part of a genre of developments that pose a real risk to our business… and broadly across the economies of the world,” said IATA Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac.

However, the market is expected to grow as the demand continues. The advanced technologies are entering the market and adding value to the cargo business. In addition, the global growth rate in the e-commerce sector is expected to reinforce growth prospects over the forecast period. There are also views about large-scale consolidation among industry players in air cargo which would enhance the scale of operations and improve efficiency and cut transactions costs. Technologically, there will be some major disruptive changes in the market, and it is expected that in the next 15 years more and more delivery of high-value goods will be required. Air cargo is used for speed and reliability, and it would continue to be a preferred means of transport for time-sensitive and high-value goods.

A Stroll through the Airports of the future

Anil Singh

The airport experience has morphed dramatically in the past 10 years with the introduction of biometric security, mobile check-in and baggage tracking. And there is much more to come.

The next decade will witness an exponentially accelerated pace of change with transformative technologies, from flying taxis to airports that think for themselves.

Benoit Verbaere, Business Development Director, SITA predicts major change for nearly all aspects of
the airport experience.

Verbaere says, “Passenger numbers are set to double in the next twenty years, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), but airport expansion won’t keep up. And passengers, quite rightly, want a smooth and easy journey through the airport. The only way we can make sure airports continue to work smoothly is by developing and implementing new technologies that make them more efficient while also enhancing the passenger experience.”

Security will be integrated into a frictionless journey

Over the next decade, going through security will mean walking along a corridor. No more taking off your coat, shoes, and belt, or putting little bottles into little bags. And no more queues. Passengers and their bags will be recognised automatically as they go through automated checkpoints. Hard checkpoints will be replaced by sensor corridors, making physical document checks obsolete.

Passengers will be in control of their digital identity

The adoption of digital self-sovereign identity and persistent travel tokens will put passengers back in control of what aspects of their identity should be revealed, for what purpose, as they travel. In future airports, risk will be constantly assessed by special artificial intelligence (AI), using the passenger’s digital identity. The sensitive elements of this data will be used only by governments, which will use automated collaborative systems to approve – or, in some cases, not approve – the various steps of the journey. Airlines will no longer hold the responsibility for processing passenger data for border security purposes.

Benoit Verbare Artilce image 2

Travel steps will be decentralised

Everything will have tags: people, bags and cargo. And they will be tracked throughout their entire journey, whatever mode of transport they are using. This will mean travel authorisation and customs checks can be made in advance of the flight, saving time at the airport. And remote bag drop-off and collection will be offered wherever it is most convenient for the passenger, at train stations for example.

The airport will be highly connected

Our new era of connected airports will be driven by increasingly cheap sensors, less dedicated hardware and new data lakes, fed by every device over 5G. The data will be captured through Software Defined Networks, collated and analysed to make the airport highly efficient and to make it a much better experience for passengers. The airport will think for itself Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms will be the key to efficiency for the airports. Airports will use Digital Twin technology to bring real-time operations to life for all stakeholders, improving operational efficiency and enhancing
the passenger experience. A Digital Twin is an advanced computer simulation that takes data from across the entire airport and airline operations to visualise simulate and predict what will happen next.

That predictive data will then be used to streamline operational activities, automating them where possible. Automated messages such as: “Two A380s will land at the same time because one is delayed: ensure there are enough people on immigration desks.” or “The feedback from the restrooms on the second level is negative: send the cleaners.” The rapid exchange of information will mean proactive responses and therefore more responsive and accurately planned operations for airlines and airports.

The collaboration will be critical

Across every single journey, there are 10 or more different entities that are responsible for making your trip a reality. The only way to collect all the data to make this journey seamless is through close collaboration between everyone working at an airport: the airport itself, airlines, government agencies, ground handlers, restaurants and shops. We also need collaboration across the entire ecosystem of connected airports. Throughout this wide network, operational data will be shared using trust frameworks and stakeholders will share single sources of truth for essential operations. This will make airports much more efficient, for example digitising turnaround management, putting a sharp focus on getting aircraft back in the air as quickly as possible. Here technologies such as blockchain provide tremendous potential in facilitating the secure exchange of information.

Benoit Verbare Artilce image 3

The airport will be highly automated

High-speed mobile connectivity at the airport will be central to missioncritical performance. Airports will increasingly run just-in-time operations, with automation and self-service making everything more efficient. And connected, automated and autonomous vehicles and robots are set to become commonplace throughout the airport.

Automation will also enable more efficient sharing and use of assets. A wide range of objects – from baggage or aircraft tugs – will be connected via 5G networks, providing massive amounts of data, offering real-time, predictive and historic views of airport operations.

The airport will adapt to passengers’ needs

The fast and frictionless journey to, and through, the airport will make some current revenue streams, for example, parking, weaker or obsolete. Airports will, therefore, need to find new ways to augment the travel experience to replace them. Personalisation will be the key, providing passengers with what they want, when they need it at any point throughout their journey from start to finish, not just at the airport. Examples could include an airport-provided limo service comprising bag check-in at your home, office or hotel, and fast-track approvals and facilitation for regular travellers.

Mobility will be a service on demand

Airports will become giant flying ‘park and ride’ centres, providing access to a wide range of transport options. Innovations such as air taxis will be emerging by 2030 to provide much more efficient transport to and from the airport. They may even provide competition on short-haul routes making air travel possible for everyone.

There will be an API for everything we do at the airport

Since tomorrow’s travellers will be digital natives, people who run the airports will also need to be digital natives. This technologically-literate environment will result in airport complexity being sliced into a set of data services that can be shared as application programming interfaces (APIs). It will provide an ecosystem that enables collaboration and innovation, which is easier for everyone to use. For example, AI and new syntaxes will enable requests of industry-specific insight in human terms: ‘Is there a pink bag as a carry on at gate B34?’ or ‘The line at arrival concourse A is too long, send more taxis’.

The future of airports lies in connected, highly-intelligent and efficient operations that offer passengers painfree and frictionless travel and rich, personalised experiences. Today’s blockages and operational silos will dissolve, resulting in data-sharing based on digital trust, shared assets and realtime calculations from AI. We’re entering a golden silicon-infused era for air travel. However, it’s essential the industry acknowledges the need for change and collaborates. These technological shifts will happen, and will happen faster than we think.

New Engines Offer Fuel Efficiency

Fuell Efficiency article image 2

Tamanna Bhatia

Over the years, the aircraft efficiency has increased by well over 70% since the first jets took to the sky. New technologies, designs and materials will continue to improve the jet efficiency and make it sustainable in the coming years. This is confirmed in the recent research which explains how the aviation industry is contributing to reducing emissions.

Among the recent developments in the industry is the LEAP engine designed by CFM International. CFM International, a consortium of GE Aviation and SNECMA, developed its LEAP-1A/B/C advanced high-bypass turbofan engine. This engine incorporates new aerodynamic designs, materials, coatings, combustion and cooling technology. The technology has enabled these engines to cut fuel consumption, lower emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and reduce the noise footprints 75%.

Pratt & Whitney’s Pure Power ‘geared turbofan’ was also a revolution. The design incorporates a gear system that allows the engine’s fan section to operate at a slow speed while hotter sections of the engine can continue to operate at much higher speeds. As a result, the engine is more efficient, reduces fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and noise. The latest engine by Rolls-Royce – Trent engine – shows a 16% increase in fuel efficiency since the first Trent, which entered service in 1996. The new engine uses more advanced aerodynamics and materials as well as next-generation clearance control, intelligent management of internal air systems, enabling next-generation bypass ratios and pressure ratios.

The Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine from Pratt & Whitney took around 20 years and $10 billion for development. The engine which came into life in 2018 has been a major success. It is much more fuel-efficient and offers lower noise and emissions. Until this new engine was launched, all the earlier engines ran the front end and back end turbofans at the same speed. However, in order to attain optimum efficiency, the fan at the front should run much slower than the compressor and turbine elements in the back. By introducing 3:1 reduction gears between front and back, the GTF engine is able to operate more efficiently.

Since entering the market, GTF engines were able to demonstrate the ability to reduce fuel burn by 16 to 20 per cent, saving customers several million gallons of fuel and in turn costs. The Pratt & Whitney GTF engine has been able to significantly reduce regulated emissions and this metric is measurable. It also lowered the noise footprint by 75 per cent. As a result, engines in service are saving approximately 100 gallons of fuel and reducing CO2 emissions by one metric tonne per flight hour.

In the near future, new developments in the engine models would continue. In around 2025, a new generation of ‘open-rotor’ engines will enter the market. These engines will be gas turbines driving two high-speed propellers moving in opposite directions. GE Aviation, Rolls-Royce and SNECMA are developing new aerodynamic and material technologies which could result in the return of propeller-driven engine on larger aircraft, but with higher flight speeds and lower noise levels.

These days when environmental pollution is a major concern, the GTF engines have proven to be extremely fuel-efficient. The engine’s reduction in the overall noise footprint has helped airlines to operate more aircraft since it is able to meet the noise regulations at the airports. Additionally, with reduced fuel burn, the operators can fly longer routes by using the same amount of fuel. Hence, new routes and destinations have been added for passengers. The GTF engine has proven to be revolutionary and has made an important contribution to the aviation industry.

In order to attain environmental goals, aircraft manufacturers would have to invest in more efficient engines. Further significant improvements of the classic tube-and-wing configuration powered by turbofans are becoming more and more difficult to envisage after 2035. Electric jets are now a reality and once they become popular, there would be no issue of emissions.

Worldwide, air traffic is increasing rapidly and the global carbon dioxide emissions from aviation, which now represents just 2 to 3 per cent of the overall CO2 emissions, could jump as much as 500 per cent by 2050, according to one forecast. Greener airlines are the future of sustainable aviation. Since we cannot stop flying completely, making airlines environment-friendly is a must.

*Note – Inputs from Pratt & Whitney press release.


The Way Forward for the Aviation Industry

The aviation industry is on a continuous upward progression with the number of people flying everyday set to double over the next twenty years from the current number of 8.3 million. While it is a great achievement for the industry, such growth in the aviation industry brings a huge environmental challenge. More than 5 million barrels of jet fuel is consumed every day by airlines around the world. As per the Energy Information Administration, one gallon of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) produces 21.1 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2). With each barrel containing 42 gallons of jet fuel, airlines add about 2 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, every day.

With the world agencies working towards changing the climatic conditions and green environment, the importance of powering the aviation sector through sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) cannot be overstated. It has become imperative to make aviation sustainable by deploying alternative fuel options as it not only impacts the environment but also the airlines’ costs. Jet fuel continues to be the airlines’ biggest expense, highlighting a need for change.

“The momentum for sustainable aviation fuels is now unstoppable. From one flight in 2008, we passed the threshold of 100,000 flights in 2017, and we expect to hit one million flights during 2020. But that is still just a drop in the ocean compared to what we want to achieve. We want one billion passengers to have flown on a SAF-blend flight by 2025”, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

According to Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), with use of SAF extracted from oil crops like camelina, algae and jatropha or from waste biomass and wood can reduce the carbon footprint by around 80%. Also, these fuels were found to be technically compliant with the conventional jet fuel during all the test flight carried out by more than twenty airlines.

Michael Wolcott, Director of Ascent, a federally funded coalition of universities and industry in aviation research, Washington State University says, “The industry is growing more rapidly than the fuel savings. The only way to meet climate goals is to decarbonise the fuel.”

Currently, there are only five airports that have regular biofuel circulation – Bergen, Brisbane, Los Angeles, Oslo and Stockholm – while others have sporadic supply. However, the biofuel supply can still be broadened if the SAF supply is centralised at 5% airports that handle 90% of the international traffic, thereby reaching the maximum number of flights.

In 2018, about 15 million litres of biofuel was produced which accounted for a mere 0.1% of the total aviation fuel requirement; indicating the need for much faster ways of SAF production.

Michael Gill, Executive Director, ATAG at the 2019 Global Sustainable Aviation Forum, Montreal says, “Fulfilling our climate obligations will be hard, but it is not a task which we can avoid. We need to accelerate work now to bring about a genuine energy transition in aviation, away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy sources.”

Another challenge with biofuels is its high cost; however, the industry is working on methods to reduce the costs. Also, biofuels allow airplanes to fly further on a gallon of fuel in comparison to using conventional jet fuel, making aircraft more fuel efficient.

According to ATAG, in order to reach commercial viability (two per cent of total fuel supply by 2025), we will need around 7 billion litres of biofuel a year. Current estimates show that we are already equipped to produce half of the required volume. However, we need to ensure that this production is directed towards aviation and not other modes of transport or other industries.

For such initiatives, the governments will play a significant role in establishing the right policy framework to track the advancements in this direction. Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO says, “We need governments to set a framework to incentivise production of SAF and ensure it is as attractive to produce as automotive biofuels.”

While we are working on the short-term objectives of reducing carbon footprint by 2020, we have to also look at the broader picture. We need to have a peek into the future and ensure that biofuel becomes the main source of aviation energy in the coming decades. We need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and recognise the longevity of biofuels allowing the planet to flourish in the years to come.

Airline Route Planning

Route planning is one of the most important decisions for an airline. Forecasting demand, availability of aircraft and competition are some key considerations for an airline while deciding where-to and how-often- to fly. The airline also needs to consider hub connectivity besides the other factors. In some cases, the governments are also involved if it is a national carrier and there can be other political factors influencing the decision. The end goal of any airline is to generate profit and hence economic consideration is always the top priority. While evaluating a new route option, the airline has to forecast the demand of the passengers and cargo and the costs involved in operating that route, which includes airport cost, sales office and staff costs.


Demand forecast

Route Planning

Route planning is the core function for airports to attract new services. 

For an airline, route planning is a must in order to check the demand forecast before considering a new route. Depending on the analysis, it can decide if a particular sector would be profitable or not. Finding out the number of passengers who will travel or are already travelling on a particular route helps the airline to identify the trend in the market. Based on that, the airline can decide the fares and how many aircraft to deploy for that route. Along with the demand, the airlines also consider the alliances in the same sector and the frequent flyer membership which passengers might have with other airlines. All these factors contribute to deciding if a new airline can succeed in a particular market.

Hub Connectivity

Route Planning

The airlines usually have one hub where they operate most of their flights. From this hub, the airline should be able to connect people to most of the other destinations. Therefore, hub connections are indirect connections and the success of hub connection is measured by how many indirect connections an airline has from its main hub. This also strengthens its competitive positioning in the market. For instance, one of the reasons why Emirates became such a popular airline was due to the fact that it had a strong hub – Dubai. While planning the route network, the airline should make sure that its hub provides it with a good choice of connection to various destinations.

Although traffic between point A and point B is important; it is also important for airlines to get passengers from connecting flights to the hub.

Fleet Deployment

Another important factor while deciding a route is deploying the right aircraft and the availability of that aircraft. In case of a long haul flight, the airline needs to have the right kind of aircraft which would provide a return on investment and be cost-efficient. For short haul flights, airlines usually deploy aircraft which are fuel efficient for short, frequent flights.

Selection of aircraft also depends on the average traffic flow forecast. If the airline knows that a certain route has more demand, then it needs a larger aircraft before adding that route to its network. Two main areas of consideration are performance and operating cost and the airline’s fleet can have a huge impact on its economic profitability.

Each time an airline deploys an aircraft on a particular route, it needs to consider how many people would be flying, the elevation of the aircraft, fuel consumption etc.

Demand forecast

Competition is definitely a deciding factor. Starting a route with high demand but high competition would be less preferred than starting a route with high demand but low competition. The airline usually does not start a new route which is dominated by other carriers unless there is underutilised capacity. Several low-cost carriers chose to fly to smaller airports due to low costs at the airport and also to serve the under-served markets where there is no competition. Route planning is a strategic decision and checking the competition can help airline evaluate the strength, weakness, opportunity and threat of the new route.


Besides the major factors discussed above, starting a new route in a new market comes with several additional costs like flight crews and their overnights, gate space at a certain time period that the flight will be operating, etc. To sum up, airlines need to forecast demand, make a strategic evaluation based on competition, review the airline hub economies and finally check its technical capability for each route that the airlines plan to operate on.

8 Most Scenic Airports of the World

Most of the airport ratings are usually based on international standards, which include the facilities, runway, amenities, staff and other technological innovations. However, there are some small and mostly unexplored airports which are known for their extraordinary location and the scenic beauty. Let’s read about some of the most attractive airports in the world.

Demand forecast


Donegal Airport is located at Carrickfinn, on the top North-Western corner of Ireland. The airport is situated on the west coast and is not much far from Dungloe and Gweedore. The airport has been named as one of the most scenic airports in the world due to its stunning natural scenery and the maritime environment. Carrickfinn is within a Gaeltacht region and most of the people speak native Irish. The main industry of the region is fishing and over a period of time, this place has become more popular among the tourists.

The airport is significant for the region because it provides a support base for the offshore oil and gas industry for several major oil companies. The airport’s strategic location supports air services for offshore operations of the West and North West coasts of Ireland. Landing and take-off at this airport are truly spectacular, according to the visitors. According to a traveller’s review, “The runway is a slim strip of land, with an inlet of water on one side and the North Atlantic stretching out on the other.”

Demand forecast

This airport is a tiny Scottish airport at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. An average of 8500 passengers per year use the airport, and there are more than 1,400 aircraft movements (landings or takeoffs) per year. The airport is technologically advanced and maintains good safety rules. The airport staff has to ensure that stranded dolphins or seals on TraighMhor are taken care of which makes it definitely much different from other airports in the world.

The airport is operated by Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL). The airport building is modern and friendly. The view from the airport is stunning.

Nice Cote d'Azur International Airport, France

Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport is located on the waterfront on the French Riviera between Cannes and Nice. The location makes it panoramic. The airport is the third busiest airport in France and last year there were more than 13 million passengers using the airport. EasyJet has its base at this airport, and there are several flights operating from this airport. The airport is close to the main city and also offers helicopter services to Monaco, Cannes and Saint Tropez.

Queenstown Airport, New Zealand

Queenstown Airport is another airport which topped the list of most scenic runways in the world. The landing at the airport is truly magnificent as the region is blessed with natural beauty.

Saint Martin - Princess Juliana International Airport

Saint Martin airport located on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin is (in)famous for its dramatic runway. The runway is just 2,180 metres long and begins immediately after Maho Beach. Landing at the airport is quite spectacular because of the runway length. The aircraft has to steer a course for the runway no more than 10 metres above the heads of the people at the beach. Taking off is also quite a challenge for the tourists because the aircraft appears to be almost touching their heads.

Gibraltar Airport, Spain

The airport is located at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar Airport is different and one of its kind because the airport’s runway crosses the town’s only road link to mainland Spain, Winston Churchill Avenue. When an aircraft is landing or taking off, the road has to be closed on the Rock. Can you imagine each time you are driving past such a crossing? The landing and takeoff at this airport are enjoyable and picturesque.

Most people do not plan travels based on airports. However, these airports have created an interest in the location among the travellers due to their amazing view. These airports have become endorsements for the regions where they are located. Aviation plays an important role in supporting tourism and these airports being naturally aesthetic play a crucial role in attracting visitors.