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Cargo airlines increase omnichannel sales efforts

Direct connections with logistics buyers, online markets offer more flexibility

Cargolux is making it easier for logistics customers to order directly from its reservation system without human intervention. (Photo: Cargolux)

A flurry of activity in airfreight technology during the past week underscores recent interest by airlines and freight forwarders in digitally connecting sales channels and transport management systems to simplify the process for reserving cargo space.

A shortage of available aircraft to carry freight during the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online sales and digital tools that have become common in other industries. Forwarders realized they needed access to the latest rates and ability to make instant bookings because the space could be gone by the time they confirmed details by phone and email and checked with their customers for permission to execute the transaction. Digital connections also reduce the administrative burden at a time when companies are having difficulty hiring.

Airlines are increasingly investing in software tools that allow their back-end systems to automatically communicate with customers’ applications and multiparty platforms that sell air cargo capacity as part of an omnichannel strategy. And many are offering their capacity on more than one digital marketplace, where logistics companies are able to quickly comparison shop, in an effort to extend their reach and find new customers.

The various interfaces offer dynamic pricing options based on specific requirements such as weight, routing and product type.

Cargo.one on Tuesday announced that Saudia Cargo has expanded a partnership that began in 2021. The cargo division of Saudi Arabia’s flagship carrier will list its capacity for new markets and products beyond general cargo as they become available. 

The platform, which has raised more than $65 million from investment funds and Lufthansa Cargo, has dozens of global carriers on its site.


“We expect the majority of customers to be booking digitally in only a few years time, and Cargo.one to continue delivering a valuable proportion of our online sales,” said Saudia Cargo CEO Teddy Zebitz in a news release. 

A recent cargo.one survey of airlines showed that the share of bookings via digital channels is expected to triple to 60% by 2025. 

Also on Tuesday, all-cargo carrier Cargolux said it has initiated an application programming interface with global forwarder DB Schenker to enable electronic booking on its flights, starting in Austria, Spain and Portugal. Following a test with mega-forwarder Kuehne + Nagel, Luxembourg-based Cargolux in January launched an online customer portal that enables customers to plug in middleware to obtain customized quoting and booking for ad hoc shipments and regular allocations. 

Last week, the All Nippon Airways cargo unit signed up to share real-time rates and capacity for electronic booking by freight forwarders on WebCargo, a digital platform operated by the Freightos Group.

Freightos said ANA Cargo will begin offering capacity on the platform in the first quarter of 2023. It claims airlines representing more than 50% of global capacity are now participating on WebCargo. 

ANA began flying dedicated cargo aircraft in 2014 to increase its cargo capability beyond what could be carried below deck in its passenger network. It currently operates two Boeing 777 freighters and a handful of medium-size 767s.

Also, freight forwarders that have adopted CargoWise from WiseTech Global can now book, confirm and change shipments with British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level after IAG Cargo began directly exchanging its capacity data with the platform.

Meanwhile, startup airline CMA CGM Air Cargo recently joined its first marketplace, CargoAi. At the moment it only offers instant booking for scheduled freighter service between Paris and Hong Kong after temporarily pausing operations in the U.S. market. CargoAi now has 71 participating airlines on its site.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]