Retrospective Look at 2021 and What to Expect in 2022
They say hindsight is always 20/20 and if anyone claims that they had the foresight to predict what would happen in 2020 then, either they were lying or they are clairvoyants. Whilst 2020 turned the whole world upside down, 2021 did mark a remarkable recovery. Global vaccine roll-outs created optimism and in fact allowed to open up economies for some time until the Delta variant struck real hard around mid-year. So it had been a roller coaster ride for the whole world. However, the air cargo industry was the silver lining to the dark cloud of pandemic. If this industry hadn’t stepped up during the pandemic times we would have seen thousands of more lives lost. And when we take the final look at the year, just when the world thought it had dealt well with the Delta variant Omicron appeared.
2021 did see a recovery in capacity. For the air freight industry, the yields remained pretty high. Port congestions and maritime supply chain disruptions did help a lot of cargo getting diverted to the air mode of transport. E-commerce continued to scale newer heights in 2021. At most airports the volumes were either back to pre-covid levels or even crossed the pre-covid levels. The record profits of shipping lines meant they could focus on creating true multi-modal products and we saw prominent shipping lines buying/leasing planes. Add to that quite a few of these companies are also actively looking at building cargo infrastructure at the airports. After the integrators, this is another strong competition that the air cargo stakeholders have to deal with.
Whilst all of these trends were shaping the physical facets of the industry, pandemic was a boom for the digitization efforts. In fact, in a long time, there hasn’t been such a shot in the arm for the industry which has been considered as a laggard in digitization. The air cargo portals blossomed during these shrunk capacity times. Digitization was no longer a need but an imperative for the business continuity. Our industry saw 3-4 years of digitization packed into one with a lot of SME forwarders overnight migrating to cloud based systems, community systems that reduce paper, congestion and dwell times mushroomed at several airports and ports. Regulators further enhanced their digital stacks with several paperless and advanced data initiatives. This easily was the Best year for our industry over decades when it comes to digitization.
I will be making a fool of myself if I try to predict 2022. We live in uncertain times and after delta we have a more infectious but less virulent Omicron. One can only hope that due to high infectious nature of Omicron the world develops herd immunity faster and Covid then becomes part of our lives like any other flu. Having said that one never knows how this virus will mutate in 2022. The good news is we have largely learnt how to deal with the virus over last couple of years and the show must go on. I am confident the air cargo warriors will continue to save lives in 2022 should the pandemic continue. In the most optimistic prediction the capacity recovery will be expedited led by freighters. Yields are likely to remain high through 2022 due to higher demand. Pharma and medical supplies will continue to hold their positions.
Sustainability and digitization are two trends that will continue to reshape our industry. The focus will be on reducing congestion and paperwork; both primary reasons for the virus spread. Efforts in this direction will continue and this will further reinforce the sustainability efforts in terms of reduced number of trees cut and reduced carbon emissions. Digitization will play a major role in organizations achieving their sustainability goals. Digitization will also need to be accompanied by a strong focus on cyber security which was a concern area throughout 2021. Airport Cargo community systems will continue to transform the air cargo processes worldwide in 2022.
At TIACA, we recognize the need to support the industry with sustainability, digitization and service quality initiatives. With our vibrant secretariat ably led by Glyn and guided by the Executive Committee; we are doing our bit with the Sustainability Survey, Cargo Service Quality (CSQ) assessments and meaningful industry dialogues on digitization. We are eagerly looking forward to welcome our industry colleagues in San Francisco in March this year and I look forward to seeing most of you there!!! Thank you all for your unstinting support to TIACA and here’s wishing you a fabulous 2022!!!