Air charter: Something new every day

With demand returning to pre-pandemic levels, we spoke to Neil Dursley, Chief Commercial Officer of Chapman Freeborn, to find out where the cargo charter market is going.

The end of 2022 was a good indicator for how 2023 was going to look, with cargo demand falling from the pandemic highs as the world faced challenges caused by factors such as war, inflation and rising interest rates.

Neil Dursley, Chief Commercial Officer of Chapman Freeborn says results in 2023 were closer to 2019 than previous years.

2023 has brought a seemingly never-ending list of crises, with Dursley commenting, “It has sometimes felt like every morning when we wake up there’s another global event occurring.”

He highlights the earthquakes in Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Afghanistan and most recently, Nepal.

There were the floods in Libya, civil war in Sudan, the conflict in Israel and Gaza, and the war in Ukraine is approaching its second anniversary.

Dursley says this has created demand for humanitarian aid and relief.

The cost-of-living crisis is affecting people globally and Dursley adds that this has created challenges for the e-commerce business coming out of China.

Dursley says, “Chapman Freeborn is very fortunate to have third-party relationships with cargo charter operators, and our own internal fleet of aircraft, which have helped us to remain flexible in a challenging market.”

Thanks to investments from Chapman Freeborn’s parent company, Avia Solutions Group, new offices have been opened in new countries and more commercial staff have been recruited to support new and existing customers.

As 2023 comes to an end, Dursley says things have picked up over the past two months out of Asia into Europe and to the Americas.

He says, “We've seen a continued uptick in various industry sectors such as the humanitarian business, the energy sector, and the automotive sector. It’s been a challenging year, but we are still far above our 2019 results.”

With the pandemic now largely a memory, companies are able to reflect on how it affected business, with Dursley saying it drove a rapid increase in demand for certain products such as Covid-19 test kits and masks, which are no longer in demand.

In early 2022, when the pandemic was easing, war broke out in Ukraine, which significantly increased fuel prices.

Dursley says, “We adapted to these changes by making ourselves more resilient, opening new offices and enhancing our existing operations around the world with additional staff, as well as by diversifying our portfolio of service offerings.”

Market data suggests air cargo is picking up again for the peak season, though it is likely to be a muted season. Looking ahead to 2024, Dursley believes there will be stabilisation.

He says, “There are some concerns in the market about next year, but due to Chapman Freeborn’s expansion and our focus on specific industry verticals, we are confident despite the market conditions. We see our growth and expansion continuing into 2024 and beyond.”

This article was published in the December 2023 issue of Air Logistics International, click here to read the digital edition and click here to subscribe.