The COVID-19 pandemic has scrambled America’s freight landscape, causing supply chain disruptions as well as increased demand for medical and consumer goods that are scarce.
In a race against time, many shippers are relying on the air freight industry to get critical goods to their destinations.
Brandon Fried, executive director of The Airforwarders Association, explained the importance of the air freight industry and how it has adapted to accommodate the needs of a nation in crisis with FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller on the FreightWavesTV show, “Fuller Speed Ahead.”
The Airforwarders Association (AfA) is a global alliance of indirect air carriers, cargo airlines and affiliated businesses. The association represents member companies, ranging from small businesses to those with over 1,000 people, dedicated to moving cargo throughout the supply chain, according to its website.
Freid said that many of AfA’s members are suffering economic hardships due to the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, freight forwarders involved heavily in automotive transport as well as the niche markets such as the entertainment industry have seen declines in business as Americans participate in social distancing.
Some of its members acknowledged revenue cuts of over 50% due to current economic constraints. Fried also added that, according to a recent AfA survey, 65% of respondents reported layoffs are either imminent or are already underway.
This is a major concern for Fried as he expressed frustration that the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the U.S. Congress last week and signed by President Trump did not include freight forwarders as a focus of its relief efforts.
Fried explained that the pandemic has been more disruptive to air traffic than the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as the virus’s threat has been detrimental to the sector for over a month.
Although air cargo demand has decreased overall, Fried said the nature of the cargo has changed drastically. Freight forwarders are now focusing their efforts on getting pharmaceuticals, gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment to America’s healthcare system as well as consumers.
“We have a lot of members that are involved in the essential medical supply space,” Freid said. “I’d say about 80-90% of chartered flights carrying essential medical supplies are managed by freight forwarders.”
He continued, “Freight forwarders are all about finding opportunities and finding niches in places you’d never dream existed.”
Despite the challenging times, Freid said he’s impressed with the efforts being made by those in the air cargo industry to go the extra mile for a nation in need. Freid credited major commercial airlines for their assistance, adding that some have even offered their passenger planes as freighters.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into the month of April, Fried advises AfA members to continue speaking with their customers to let them know you’re readily available to assist them throughout the pandemic.
“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” Fried said. “We’re going to get through this crisis. This is a very resilient country and we’re a very resilient industry.”