Cargo handlers respond to accusations of 'opportunistic surcharges'

Fri 24 Apr 2020
Posted by: Ana Pintor
Trade News

Cargo handlers Menzies Aviation and Swissport have said the surcharges they are imposing on air freight companies during the COVID-19 crisis are “necessary” to keeping their operations going.

They were responding to accusations from the British International Freight Association (BIFA) earlier this week claiming the charges were “opportunistic”.

Swissport told Air Cargo News that they had to pass additional costs to their customers due to the loss of “almost all passenger flights and their cargo capacities” and because they could no “longer rely on stable and recurrent flight schedules”.

Menzies Aviation also said the surcharges were “necessary to keep our operations going… through significant volume reductions” due to the COVID-19 pandemic but were “keen to play our part in maintaining movement in global supply chains”.

Catch 22

A spokesman for BIFA told the Daily Update last night (23 Apr) that this dispute was now damaging relationships between cargo handlers and freight businesses.

Greg Easterbrook, managing director at U-Freight UK Limited, told the Update he understood the cargo handlers’ situation was difficult, but that the charges were “nonetheless unreasonable”.

He added that Swissport had gone so far as to stop accepting credit terms from forwarders and were now demanding payment up-front prior to the release of goods. This has put freight businesses in a “catch-22” because they still need to be able to move the goods.

Easterbrook believes the move has been “justified by cashflow” but that “everybody will have this issue” at the moment.

‘Take it or leave it’

BIFA told us forwarders have been trading with ground handlers on credit terms for many years and are now being put in a “take it or leave it” situation.

The trade body told the Daily Update on Tuesday (21 April) that the costs of surcharges would inevitably be passed onto importers by the forwarders meaning importers will bear the brunt.