Air charter market struggles with lack of large aircraft

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As AirBridgeCargo (ABC) looks to find ways to keep its metal in the air, the charter market looks thin.

The project market in particular is struggling; Ukrainian carrier Antonov, which operates five AN-124s, has dedicated them all to humanitarian efforts.

Unfortunately, and famously, its AN-225, the largest commercial aircraft on the market, with a payload of 250 tons, was destroyed last week. And, with the Volga-Dnepr fleet of one-124s and Il-76s banned from the United States and Europe, outsized deliveries are currently unable to fly in many regions.

Some freight forwarders have declared deliveries of large trucking sizes from the United States to Mexico to ensure onward air freight, as there are few large aircraft capacities available.

“If you have a helicopter that you want to transport, forget about it,” said Russi Batliwala, president of brokerage Chapman Freeborn.

And Metro Shipping told its customers: “The destruction and grounding of a large part of the Antonov fleet will make shipping oversized project cargoes much more difficult and, in the short term, could add costs and delays for many industries, including the energy sector.

The charter market is not much better in the 747 business. A US freight forwarder said The Loadstar some US cargo operators were focusing on humanitarian and war-related operations, putting additional pressure on the market. And, with the absence of ABC’s capability in major markets, charters are more difficult than ever.

“Russian planes are the charter market,” Mr. Batliwala said. “This will have a big impact on the charter market.”

As a result, fares for 747 charters are skyrocketing, a freight forwarder said. The market was already tight – Atlas Air signed contracts for freighters that have yet to deliver – and amid continued volumes of Covid-related PPE and equipment, demand has not abated.

“I expect prices to rise,” Batliwala said.

Meanwhile, an ABC source said it was working hard on solutions to be able to offer at least some capacity to the market, explaining, “We are doing what we can, with what we have.”

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