Issue No. 849

Freight Forward

The Cargo Boom Seems Like It's Here to Stay

Pushing Back: Inside The Issue

These indeed are remarkable times. In the span of a few months, the world has two new freighter variants, the Airbus A350F, launched late last year, and now the Boeing 777-8F, a derivative of the 777X, an aircraft that hasn't even entered service yet. Qatar Airways signed on as launch customer, with an order for as many as 50 of the type. Meanwhile, as we reported last week, Airbus is starting an airline to rent out space on its BelugaST transporters for very large cargo.

During the pandemic, airlines came to rely on cargo. Some, like Korean Air, actually turned profits on the strength of it. In 2021, maritime trade routes clogged up (sometimes literally, as in the Suez Canal), and a shortage of dockworkers, truckers, trucks, and shipping containers has left goods sitting on container ships at many of the world's busiest ports — with no relief in sight. Companies desperate for high-value parts like semiconductors turned to airlines to ease the restocking cycle. Couple these factors with a structural shift in the way consumers shop toward e-commerce, and airlines now believe the boom times will last even as the pandemic begins to recede. If there's one throughline in the earnings reported last week, it's that cargo is helping prop up airlines like All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and Icelandair.

Meanwhile, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary usually brims with confidence about his carrier's prospects, but now he's striking a markedly cautious note about European summer demand. The pilot shortage is causing both American Airlines and regional SkyWest to cut flights. And in the midst of the industry's worst crisis in a century, and when many Asian countries still have strict restrictions, a new airline plans to launch low-cost longhaul flights between the U.S. and Japan and Korea. These indeed are remarkable times.

The Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast

Boeing hinted it would launch a new aircraft, and it did: The 777-8F, a freighter variant of its 777X program. Launch customer Qatar Airways put in an order for up to 50 of the new aircraft. Meanwhile, Ryanair’s normally bullish CEO Michael O’Leary is less confident about summer demand. And network changes at the discounter make us wonder where the airline will put all its new Boeing 737 Maxes, or as Ryanair calls them “Gamechangers.” Madhu Unnikrishnan and Edward “Ned” Russell ask why Ryanair is still trying to make “fetch” happen. Listen to the episode, and go here for a full archive of the 'Lounge.

Weekly Skies

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Sky Money

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Routes and Networks

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Feature Story

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