When COVID-19 put us into lockdown, air cargo became a lifeline for governments and economies. Whether it was emergency relief packages, or essentials such as vaccines, medical test kits and pharmaceuticals, the air cargo industry ensured that people had access to what they needed most, by adjusting flight routes and increasing cargo capacity to support the surge in demand. Today, as passenger flights resume operations and economies reopen, we are seeing new economic trends sparked by COVID-19; trends that have had a positive impact on the air cargo and broader business environment, and are likely to stay for good.
The change in behavior during the pandemic and people’s preference to shop online rather than visit stores in person has taken e-commerce to new heights. According to a report published by Nielsen in May 2020, 64% of consumers in the UAE, 54% of consumers in Kuwait, and over 40% of consumers in Bahrain and Oman have shopped less in supermarkets during the pandemic. While e-commerce presented the opportunity for small companies to reach new consumers and markets, COVID-19 has accelerated the push to be online – for both the consumer and seller.
With more and more companies establishing an online presence to either keep existing customers or to make the most of the booming trend and win new business, more air cargo services will be needed to match the soaring demands. On the same note, since lockdown has ended in many countries and people are ready to spend, production and manufacturing of products are increasing, creating more trade opportunities and growth for the air cargo industry.
In the past, air cargo transported over US$ 6.4 trillion worth of goods, which accounted for approximately 35% of world trade. Today, air cargo’s ability to keep trade moving, despite curfews and lockdowns, has further increased its value in supporting the recovery of supply chains and the air transport industry.
As COVID-19 makes way for new trends, and businesses develop new capabilities to recover, it is important that the air cargo industry acts on key learnings from the pandemic to better support economies.
Time and again, COVID-19 highlighted the need to implement new and innovative ways to operate and respond quickly to changing situations. The pandemic also reinforced the importance of planning and preparation to run the business smoothly in case of another crisis.
To be future-ready, it is important for governments and air cargo providers to continue having conversations about supporting and strengthening the air cargo industry. With the right infrastructure, skilled workforce and financial support, the air cargo industry can contribute more toward developing the economy.
There is no doubt that these times are extremely challenging for the air transport sector. However, new trends and the lessons we learn from today’s environment will boost air cargo in the long run. Since the air cargo industry is facilitating uninterrupted international trade, it has evolved as an important driver for the economies’ recovery around the world.
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