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What We’Ve Learned From Cargo Airlines And Crisis: Spotlight On Cargo KPIs

We're all aware that airlines have suffered possibly the biggest crisis in aviation history during current Corona times. However, cargo airlines are one part of aviation that hasn't ceased operations. On the contrary, it has continued to provide the necessary medical and essential food supplies within countries.

Cargo airlines have reinvented themselves in unimaginable ways in the past few months. Moreover, they’ve been using all possible resources to provide the entire world with essential goods. This is why, today, I will focus on improving the operational awareness of cargo operations. Therefore, I will introduce some of the most relevant KPIs for both normal and exceptional periods. 

General Operational KPIs Are Also Highly Relevant For Cargo Airlines

Let’s start with the obvious ones. Similar to commercial aviation, cargo airline operations monitor standard KPIs. Here are a few examples:

  • Departures: The number of flight legs with an actual departure status based on the scheduled departures.
  • Regularity: The ratio of cancellations to all scheduled flight legs.
  • Departure Punctuality: The share of punctual departed flight legs concerning all departed flight legs. 
  • Arrival Punctuality: The percentage of punctual arrived flight leg of all arrived flight leg. 
  • Delay Minutes: The sum of delay minutes (per delay reason) of departed flight legs. 
  • Cargo Weight: The total freight transported in kilograms. The cargo weight can be distributed in four main categories: cargo, courier, mail, and others.

Specific KPIs Cargo Airlines To Improve Operations

A cargo expert study performed by Otto Heiska identified additional cargo airline KPIs. From our point of view, these KPIs are extremely valuable for cargo operations. The study was developed in collaboration with the Helsinki Metropolia University and Lufthansa Cargo. Here’s a short overview of the KPIs:

Cargo KPI #1: Flown As Planned Rate

Flown as Planned Rate indicates the follow-through of a planned flight route that has a crucial role in the timeliness of the given transportation schedule. If a cargo shipment does not follow its predetermined flight schedule, it is not flown as planned. Therefore, it can hurt the punctuality of the delivery schedule and thus causes a delay in transportation. 

Cargo KPI #2: Load Factor

The Load factor indicates the ratio of the current load to the total offered freight capacity of the aircraft. 

Cargo KPI #3: Freight Tonne-Kilometer

The freight tonne-kilometer offered indicates the total cargo capacity used on all routes flown during a specific period. This is a commonly used measure produced by multiplying the total amount of freight tonnes carried on board a flight by the distance flown. (Heiska, 2015)

Cargo KPI #4: Loss and Damage

We strongly advise another interesting cargo airline KPI is loss and damage, which corresponds to the percentage of shipments with loss or damage. The KPI is exceptionally insightful when it comes to process irregularities. First, however, it is essential to consider the claimed damages filed and all damages perceived in a shipment. 

What About Cargo Airline KPIs During Exceptional Situations?

The KPIs mentioned before are all related to a regular cargo operation and should be taken into account always. However, based on the current crisis, airlines had quickly adapted to the situation. They supported the need to increase cargo flights to specific destinations to provide particular supplies to different countries. 

Based on this and related to our post-Airline Operations KPI Trends that will gain increasing importance in 2020 comes the importance of dynamic KPIs and dashboards. As we have seen in this scenario, airlines use all possible resources to transport the necessary goods.

One of the most notorious actions is that airlines are not only using cargo aircraft for freight transport. Many of us have seen the pictures of passenger aircraft transporting medical and basic food supplies. Therefore, it is necessary to bring some additional KPIs to the table. 

Implementing Dynamic Cargo Airline KPIs during Covid-19

Used Passenger Aircraft

The amount of passenger aircraft used in cargo flights corresponds to the number of passenger aircraft of the total passenger fleet used in cargo operations. Thus, the KPI helps us to understand the degree of passenger aircraft involvement. Or, in other words: The number of passenger aircraft performing cargo flights about the cargo fleet. 

Enhanced Freight Categories

Additionally, there are mainly two main freight categories that have been transported during the past few months: Medical Supplies and Essential Food.

Why are these two so relevant in the current times? First, as we have seen all around the news, there’s currently a medical supply shortage worldwide. The shortage includes protective material for medical staff and the distribution of COVID-19 tests in different countries.

Therefore, in many cases, the only goods being transported correspond to either one of these two categories. Therefore, these two new categories can be considered as new categories for evaluating the total cargo weight. 

Number of Routes / Additional Routes

Another interesting aspect to take into account is the list of new destinations included in the cargo routes. Thus, for example, Avianca, the Latin American airline, has initiated during Covid-19 a new route within its cargo business line for the first time since 1956 flights to Shanghai, China.

The airline has been transporting medical supplies to Latin America while using their Dreamliner B787 fleet, previously used for passengers, and today 100% intended for cargo transportation. This leads us to a new and dynamic KPI. New routes outside regular cargo destinations. 

Importance Of Dynamic KPIs Also For Cargo Airlines

In other words, we can see dynamic KPIs apply to all segments of aviation. In this case, not only to the passenger but also to cargo aviation. 

Once again, we can see different use cases and the benefits of using dynamic and flexible KPIs and dashboards. The possibility to adapt to every circumstance and scenario is the key to adapting to any new situation without losing awareness. 

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Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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