Bob Odhiambo’s Study Highlights Airlines’ Shift to Freight Transport
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wittenborg student and aviation enthusiast Bob Odhiambo got intrigued by how airlines would react to the closure of borders and mass cancellation of flights. This inspired Odhiambo – who recently obtained a BBA degree in Marketing & Communication – to write his graduation assignment, titled ‘Impact of the Global Pandemic on Air Cargo and Supply Chain in the Airline Industry’.
“Through news outlets such as Al Jazeera and Sky News, I followed closely how the global airline industry reported a 90% decrease in its revenue from passenger bookings, with 185,000 passenger flights having been cancelled by the end of February 2020. As a result, I found it interesting how airlines turned to freight transport to make up for the loss of passengers, taking this opportunity to expand the cargo network, and above all offering humanitarian help and relief,” he points out.
To conduct his investigation, the student made use of a qualitative approach, administering an open-ended questionnaire to 65 respondents who were knowledgeable about the airline industry, focusing on key points concerning air cargo.
Odhiambo mentions that he had to overcome several obstacles while working on his graduation assignment, including the ever-changing dynamics of his research due to the different policies implemented by the airline industry during the pandemic. Moreover, the student had to cope with the fact that he contracted COVID-19 multiple times, as well as with feelings associated with the lockdown such as loneliness and isolation.
Conclusions of the Study
According to the study, the global pandemic had a significant impact on the air cargo sector, with demand for transporting medical supplies soaring high and airlines being led to convert passenger aircraft into freighters as well as bringing grounded aircraft back into operation. Moreover, the data collected shows that international air cargo volume went from 17% in August 2019 to an all-time high of 41% in April 2020, which meant an increase in profit for the sector.
Another major change was the fact that governments of different countries, together with multiple international bodies, implemented a series of measures to provide support to the airline industry, including mergers, tax policies, subsidies and extra financial support.
In Odhiambo’s view, the global pandemic altered the business environment in a way that no one had predicted. This, in turn, also taught supply chains around the world the importance of reacting to changes by adapting and managing crises in times of uncertainty.
“The industry had to invest heavily in new aircraft, equipment and facilities, including low-temperature cargo warehouses in strategic locations for the production, manufacturing and transportation of medical equipment and supplies, such as vaccines. Airlines also implemented technological solutions like big data, artificial intelligence, enterprise resource planning and Open Cargo Platforms, among other innovations. These are just some examples of trends that will be further consolidated in the coming years,” he stresses.
Regarding his future plans, Odhiambo says that he intends to work together with brands and restaurants as a marketing professional, with the goal of maximising his skills in content creation and photography. “On the side, as an entrepreneur, I am currently setting up my e-commerce and drop-shipping business to sell cosmetics, accessories and homeware from established luxury brands. I am also planning to invest in real-estate property in my home country, Kenya, and eventually I would like to pursue a master’s degree,” he sums up.
by Ulisses Sawczuk