With Thanksgiving already behind us, the holiday season is officially in full swing; Hanukkah begins November 29th and lasts through December 6th, Kwanza starts on December 26th and lasts through Jan 1st, and Christmas obviously is on December 25th, followed by the New Year. Along with these holidays comes a significant spike in cargo volume, adding to an already congested and backed up supply chain. This year in particular, there has been a significant increase in the number of passenger bookings and, in turn, larger forecasted baggage loads. As a result, many airlines are taking action in order to try and keep up with the increased demand. For example, Southwest Airlines has stopped accepting standard air freight booking all together and are now only offering next flight guaranteed (NFG) shipments. In an effort to maintain timely deliveries, we are asking all of our customers to submit any airport shipment orders the day before for the duration of the holiday season. This gives you the best chance at successfully receiving your freight in a timely manner.
Southwest is now only accepting NFG bookings, which is an operational update they made to increase their ability to move cargo during this peak holiday season. The increased volume being shipped along with an understaffed ground crew is creating a lack of warehouse storage space, which is also limiting the amount of cargo that can be processes. In addition to this exceptionally high cargo volume, there have been an unprecedented number of passenger bookings now that the pandemic has begun to wind down and vaccinations are rolled out. Last year, travel was not an option for a lot of people. Whether they were prohibited from traveling do to regulations or were simply staying home to lessen their chances of Covid exposure, many people did not have the chance to see family or friends for the holidays, so many are making up for it this year. With increased passenger bookings comes larger baggage loads, meaning space for luggage takes priority over potential freight. With increased transatlantic flights added to accommodate vaccinated European travelers who are now permitted to enter the US, the hope was that those added flights would bring additional cargo space and, as a result, bring down air freight cost. However, this has not been the case. Freightos Air Index saw European to United States air cargo rates rise 4% to the east coast and 10% to the west coast since the beginning of this month alone. It is very likely shipping delays will be felt by everyone this holiday season, and airlines are closely monitoring and managing their situation so they can start to reinstate their guarantees and services as soon as possible.
Ports are still experiencing large backups of cargo ships, slow processing once the ships reach port due to lack of workers, and absurdly high rates, which makes air freight and cargo a viable option despite the lack of guarantee airlines are able to make. The best way we can ensure timely delivery and avoid delays is to get orders submitted promptly and have our shipments ready to go at the start of each day so we can get them to the airport as early as possible.