The air cargo market plays a pivotal role in the global transportation and logistics industry. It involves the transportation of goods and products via air carriers, enabling fast and efficient delivery across national and international borders. Air cargo services are widely used by various industries, including manufacturing, retail, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and e-commerce. With its ability to provide speedy and reliable transportation, the air cargo market has witnessed significant growth in recent years.
Air cargo refers to the transportation of goods and products by air carriers. It involves the use of specialized aircraft, such as cargo planes or cargo compartments in passenger planes, to move shipments swiftly and efficiently across different locations. Air cargo services offer several advantages, including faster delivery times, reduced transit risks, and the ability to reach remote or distant areas. This mode of transportation is particularly beneficial for time-sensitive or perishable goods that require quick and reliable delivery.
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The air cargo market has experienced substantial growth in recent years, driven by the increasing globalization of trade, e-commerce expansion, and demand for just-in-time supply chains. The market has witnessed a surge in demand for air cargo services due to their ability to provide fast, secure, and efficient transportation solutions. However, the market also faces various challenges, such as capacity constraints, high operational costs, and regulatory restrictions. Despite these challenges, the air cargo market presents numerous opportunities for industry participants to expand their operations and enhance their service offerings.
Key Market Insights
- Growing Global Trade: The air cargo market is closely tied to global trade, which has been expanding steadily over the years. Increasing cross-border transactions and the rise of e-commerce have contributed to the growth of the air cargo industry.
- E-commerce Expansion: The rapid growth of e-commerce platforms has led to a surge in demand for air cargo services. Online retailers require efficient and timely delivery of goods to meet customer expectations, driving the need for reliable air transportation.
- Time-sensitive Shipments: Certain industries, such as pharmaceuticals and perishable goods, rely heavily on air cargo for their transportation needs. The ability to transport time-sensitive shipments quickly and securely is a key driver for the air cargo market.
- Just-in-time Supply Chains: Many industries, including automotive and manufacturing, operate on just-in-time supply chain models. Air cargo plays a crucial role in enabling the timely delivery of components and parts, minimizing inventory costs and optimizing production processes.
Several factors are driving the growth of the air cargo market:
- Globalization and International Trade: The increasing interconnectedness of economies and the growth of international trade have resulted in higher demand for air cargo services. With businesses expanding their operations globally, there is a need for efficient and rapid transportation of goods.
- E-commerce Boom: The rise of e-commerce platforms and online shopping has transformed consumer behavior, leading to higher demand for air cargo services. E-commerce companies require fast and reliable transportation to ensure timely delivery of goods to customers.
- Time-sensitive and Perishable Goods: Industries dealing with time-sensitive or perishable goods, such as pharmaceuticals and fresh produce, heavily rely on air cargo for their transportation needs. Air transportation allows these goods to reach their destination quickly, preserving their quality and integrity.
- Just-in-time Manufacturing: Many manufacturing industries, such as automotive and electronics, operate on just-in-time manufacturing principles. Air cargo plays a critical role in delivering components and parts to production facilities on time, minimizing inventory costs and optimizing manufacturing processes.
- Emergence of New Markets: The development of emerging markets and the increasing disposable income of the middle class have created new opportunities for air cargo services. These markets require efficient logistics solutions to support their economic growth.
- Capacity Constraints: The air cargo market is limited by the availability of aircraft and infrastructure. With a finite number of cargo planes and limited space in passenger planes for cargo, there is a constant struggle to meet the growing demand for air cargo services. This capacity constraint can result in higher costs and delays in shipments.
- High Operational Costs: Operating and maintaining air cargo services can be expensive. Factors such as fuel costs, aircraft maintenance, and personnel expenses contribute to the overall operational costs. These costs can impact the profitability of air cargo operators and result in higher prices for customers.
- Regulatory Restrictions: The air cargo industry is subject to various regulatory requirements and restrictions imposed by national and international authorities. Compliance with security regulations, customs procedures, and safety standards adds complexity and can result in delays and additional costs for air cargo operators.
- Environmental Impact: The carbon emissions associated with air cargo transportation have raised concerns about the environmental sustainability of the industry. As environmental regulations become more stringent, air cargo operators face the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint and adopting greener practices.
- Geopolitical Factors: Political instability, trade disputes, and changing government policies can impact the air cargo market. Trade tensions between countries, imposition of tariffs, or restrictions on certain goods can disrupt the flow of air cargo and create uncertainty for industry participants.
- Technological Advancements: The integration of advanced technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and automation, presents opportunities to improve efficiency and operational processes in the air cargo market. These technologies can enhance tracking and tracing capabilities, optimize route planning, and streamline cargo handling procedures.
- Emerging Markets: The growth of emerging markets, particularly in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Africa, provides significant opportunities for air cargo operators. These regions are experiencing rapid economic development, increasing consumer demand, and expanding e-commerce sectors, creating a need for reliable and efficient air transportation services.
- Pharma and Healthcare Sector: The pharmaceutical and healthcare industries require specialized transportation for temperature-sensitive medications, vaccines, and medical equipment. Air cargo services can cater to the specific needs of these industries by providing temperature-controlled environments, ensuring the integrity and timely delivery of critical medical supplies.
- Cross-border E-commerce: The cross-border e-commerce market is expected to continue its rapid growth, driven by increasing consumer demand for products from different countries. Air cargo services play a crucial role in facilitating the movement of cross-border e-commerce shipments, offering fast and reliable delivery options.
- Logistics Innovation: The development of innovative logistics solutions, such as cargo drones and autonomous delivery systems, presents opportunities for the air cargo market. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize last-mile delivery and provide cost-effective and efficient transportation solutions in remote or challenging terrains.
The air cargo market is characterized by dynamic and evolving trends that shape its landscape. Several key dynamics influence the market:
- Collaboration and Partnerships: Air cargo operators are increasingly forming alliances and partnerships to expand their network coverage and improve operational efficiencies. Collaborative efforts among airlines, freight forwarders, and ground handling companies enable seamless connections and enhance the overall value proposition for customers.
- Digital Transformation: The adoption of digital technologies and platforms is transforming the air cargo industry. From online booking and tracking systems to digitized documentation and automated processes, digitalization is streamlining operations, improving visibility, and enhancing customer experience.
- Shift to Sustainable Practices: Sustainability and environmental considerations are gaining prominence in the air cargo market. Industry players are investing in fuel-efficient aircraft, exploring alternative fuels, and implementing eco-friendly initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint and meet sustainability goals.
- Customer-centric Approach: Customer expectations are evolving, with a growing emphasis on visibility, transparency, and real-time information. Air cargoperators are focusing on providing end-to-end visibility, real-time tracking, and proactive communication to meet customer demands. This customer-centric approach helps build trust and loyalty in a competitive market.
- Resilience and Adaptability: The air cargo market is subject to various external factors such as natural disasters, economic fluctuations, and global crises. Air cargo operators need to be resilient and adaptable to navigate through unforeseen challenges, adjust capacity, and optimize their operations to meet changing market demands.
- Shift towards E-commerce: The rise of e-commerce has significantly impacted the air cargo market. With the increasing preference for online shopping, the demand for fast and reliable delivery services has grown. Air cargo plays a vital role in enabling the transportation of e-commerce goods, offering expedited shipping options and meeting customer expectations for quick order fulfillment.
- Emphasis on Security and Compliance: Security concerns in the air cargo industry have led to the implementation of stricter regulations and compliance measures. Air cargo operators are required to adhere to rigorous security protocols, including cargo screening, to ensure the safety and integrity of shipments. Compliance with these regulations is crucial to maintain the trust and confidence of customers and regulatory authorities.
The air cargo market exhibits regional variations influenced by economic, geographical, and demographic factors. Here is a brief analysis of key regions:
- North America: North America is a significant market for air cargo, driven by robust e-commerce growth, strong manufacturing sectors, and the presence of major global logistics hubs. The region benefits from advanced infrastructure, extensive air connectivity, and favorable trade policies, fostering the growth of the air cargo market.
- Europe: Europe has a well-developed air cargo market, supported by a vast network of airports, efficient customs procedures, and a strong logistics industry. The region serves as a major gateway for international trade, and the expansion of e-commerce platforms has further boosted the demand for air cargo services.
- Asia-Pacific: The Asia-Pacific region is witnessing rapid growth in the air cargo market, driven by the emergence of e-commerce giants, robust manufacturing sectors, and growing consumer markets. Countries like China, India, and Southeast Asian nations are experiencing significant growth in air cargo volumes, leading to increased investments in infrastructure and fleet expansion.
- Latin America: Latin America presents opportunities for air cargo growth, fueled by the expanding e-commerce sector, rising middle-class population, and increasing trade activities. However, the region faces challenges such as inadequate infrastructure and complex regulatory frameworks, which can hinder market growth to some extent.
- Middle East and Africa: The Middle East and Africa region are experiencing notable growth in air cargo, driven by the rise of e-commerce, infrastructure development, and increasing investments in logistics capabilities. The strategic location of the region as a transshipment hub between Asia, Europe, and Africa contributes to its air cargo market potential.
The air cargo market is highly competitive, characterized by the presence of international and regional players offering a range of services. The competitive landscape is influenced by factors such as network coverage, service quality, pricing, operational efficiency, and customer relationships. Major players in the air cargo market include:
- FedEx Corporation
- United Parcel Service (UPS)
- DHL International GmbH
- Cargolux Airlines International S.A.
- Lufthansa Cargo AG
- Emirates SkyCargo
- Cathay Pacific Airways Limited
- Korean Air Cargo
- Singapore Airlines Cargo
- Air France-KLM Cargo
These companies have established global networks, strong brand recognition, and advanced logistics capabilities, allowing them to cater to a wide range of customer requirements. Additionally, there are numerous regional and niche players that focus on specific routes, industry sectors, or specialized services, contributing to the diversity and competitiveness of the air cargo market. The competitive landscape is also influenced by collaborations and partnerships among air cargo operators to enhance network reach and operational efficiencies.
To maintain their competitive edge, key players in the air cargo market focus on the following strategies:
- Network Expansion: Air cargo companies strive to expand their network coverage by establishing partnerships with other airlines, freight forwarders, and ground handling companies. This enables them to offer comprehensive global reach and seamless connections for customers.
- Service Innovation: To differentiate themselves in the market, air cargo operators invest in service innovation. This includes providing value-added services such as temperature-controlled transportation, specialized handling for fragile goods, and customized logistics solutions tailored to specific industries.
- Technology Adoption: The adoption of advanced technologies is crucial for enhancing operational efficiency and improving customer experience. Air cargo companies invest in state-of-the-art tracking systems, digital platforms, and data analytics to provide real-time shipment visibility, optimize route planning, and streamline operations.
- Customer Relationship Management: Building strong customer relationships is a key focus for air cargo operators. They invest in customer-centric initiatives, such as dedicated customer service teams, proactive communication, and personalized solutions, to meet customer expectations and ensure customer loyalty.
- Sustainability Initiatives: Air cargo companies recognize the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility. They undertake initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, explore alternative fuels, and invest in fuel-efficient aircraft to minimize their environmental impact and align with changing market expectations.
The air cargo market can be segmented based on various factors, including:
- Service Type: This includes categorizing air cargo services based on the nature of shipments, such as general cargo, express deliveries, perishable goods, pharmaceuticals, and oversized cargo.
- Destination: Segmentation can be done based on regional or international destinations to analyze the demand and volume of air cargo for specific regions or countries.
- Industry Vertical: Segmenting the market by industry verticals allows for a deeper understanding of the unique requirements and demand drivers for sectors such as automotive, retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and e-commerce.
- Aircraft Type: The market can be segmented based on the type of aircraft used for cargo transportation, such as dedicated cargo planes, freighter conversions, or cargo compartments in passenger planes.
- Service Level: This segmentation focuses on different service levels provided by air cargo operators, ranging from standard or economy services to premium or express delivery options.
These segmentation approaches help in analyzing market trends, understanding customer preferences, and tailoring services to specific market segments.
- General Cargo: General cargo refers to the transportation of standard goods that do not require specialized handling or temperature control. It encompasses a wide range of products, including consumer goods, electronics, textiles, and machinery. The general cargo segment represents a significant portion of the air cargo market, driven by the growth of e-commerce and global trade.
- Express Deliveries: Express deliveries involve time-sensitive shipments that require expedited transportation. This category includes urgent documents, parcels, and high-value goods that need to reach their destination quickly. Express delivery services rely heavily on air cargo due to its speed and reliability, catering to the needs of businesses and consumers with time-critical requirements.
- Perishable Goods: The transportation of perishable goods, such as fresh produce, flowers, seafood, and pharmaceuticals, is a specialized segment within the air cargo market. These shipments require temperature-controlled environments to preserve product quality and integrity. Air cargo plays a crucial role in delivering perishable goods swiftly, ensuring their freshness and extending their shelf life.
- Pharmaceuticals: The pharmaceutical industry relies on air cargo for the transportation of temperature-sensitive medications, vaccines, and medical to maintain the integrity and efficacy of pharmaceutical products. This segment requires compliance with strict regulatory standards and specialized infrastructure to ensure the safe and secure transportation of pharmaceutical goods.
- Oversized Cargo: Oversized cargo refers to shipments that exceed the standard dimensions or weight limits of conventional cargo. This category includes heavy machinery, oversized equipment, vehicles, and construction materials. Air cargo operators with specialized equipment and capabilities cater to the transportation needs of oversized cargo, providing customized solutions and ensuring efficient delivery.
- E-commerce: The rapid growth of e-commerce has had a significant impact on the air cargo market. The e-commerce segment requires fast and reliable transportation services to meet the increasing demand for online purchases. Air cargo plays a crucial role in enabling cross-border e-commerce, providing expedited shipping options and seamless connectivity between various distribution centers.
- Automotive: The automotive industry relies on air cargo for the transportation of components, spare parts, and finished vehicles. Just-in-time manufacturing practices and the need for timely delivery drive the demand for air cargo services in the automotive sector. Air cargo operators offer specialized handling and storage solutions to ensure the safe and efficient transportation of automotive goods.
Key Benefits for Industry Participants and Stakeholders
- Fast and Reliable Transportation: Air cargo provides fast and reliable transportation solutions, enabling timely delivery of goods across national and international borders. This benefits industries with time-sensitive products, reducing lead times and ensuring supply chain efficiency.
- Global Reach: Air cargo allows businesses to reach global markets, providing access to customers in remote or distant locations. It opens up opportunities for international trade, market expansion, and business growth.
- Supply Chain Optimization: Air cargo plays a vital role in optimizing supply chain operations, particularly in industries with just-in-time manufacturing or perishable goods. It minimizes inventory costs, reduces stockouts, and ensures smooth production processes.
- Expanded Market Access: Air cargo facilitates the expansion of businesses into new markets. It enables companies to quickly enter foreign markets, establish distribution networks, and capitalize on emerging business opportunities.
- Enhanced Customer Experience: The speed and reliability of air cargo services contribute to an enhanced customer experience. Customers benefit from shorter delivery times, real-time tracking, and improved visibility throughout the transportation process.
- Improved Inventory Management: Air cargo’s ability to provide fast transportation allows businesses to maintain leaner inventory levels, reducing carrying costs and optimizing inventory management.
- Market Differentiation: For air cargo operators, offering reliable and efficient services can differentiate them in the competitive market. Providing value-added services, such as specialized handling, temperature-controlled transportation, and advanced tracking systems, can attract customers and build long-term relationships.
- Speed and efficiency in transportation
- Global connectivity and reach
- Ability to handle time-sensitive and perishable goods
- Strong industry expertise and experience
- Capacity constraints and high operational costs
- Environmental impact and sustainability concerns
- Dependence on external factors such as fuel prices and regulatory restrictions
- Emerging markets and growing e-commerce sector
- Technological advancements in logistics and digitalization
- Expansion of specialized services for pharmaceuticals and perishable goods
- Intense competition among air cargo operators
- Economic fluctuations and geopolitical challenges
- Increasing regulatory requirements and compliance costs
Market Key Trends
- Digitalization and Automation: The air cargo industry is embracing digital technologies and automation to improve operational efficiency, enhance customer experience, and streamline processes such as booking, tracking, and documentation.
- Sustainable Practices: Environmental sustainability is a growing focus in the air cargo market. Companies are adopting fuel-efficient aircraft, exploring alternative fuels, and implementing eco-friendly initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and meet sustainability goals.
- Data Analytics and Predictive Analytics: The use of data analytics and predictive analytics is gaining traction in the air cargo market. These technologies help in optimizing route planning, demand forecasting, capacity management, and risk assessment, enabling more efficient operations and better decision-making.
- Last-Mile Delivery Solutions: Last-mile delivery has become a critical focus in the air cargo market, particularly with the rise of e-commerce. Companies are investing in innovative last-mile delivery solutions, including drone delivery, autonomous vehicles, and smart lockers, to enhance speed and convenience in the final leg of the delivery process.
- Blockchain Technology: Blockchain technology is being explored to improve transparency, security, and efficiency in air cargo operations. Its potential applications include supply chain visibility, digital documentation, and smart contracts, reducing paperwork, enhancing traceability, and mitigating the risk of fraud.
- Shift towards Cargo-only Operations: Some airlines are adapting to the changing market dynamics by converting passenger planes into dedicated cargo planes or utilizing passenger planes for cargo-only operations. This allows them to meet the growing demand for air cargo services while passenger travel is limited.
- Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaboration among air cargo operators, logistics companies, and technology providers is increasing. Partnerships enable better network coverage, seamless connections, and shared resources, enhancing the overall efficiency and service capabilities of the industry.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the air cargo market. While the aviation industry faced severe disruptions due to travel restrictions and reduced passenger demand, the air cargo sector played a crucial role in ensuring the flow of essential goods and medical supplies. Key impacts of the pandemic on the air cargo market include:
- Surge in Medical Supply Transportation: Air cargo became a lifeline for the transportation of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccines, and pharmaceuticals. The industry witnessed a significant increase in demand for the timely delivery of essential healthcare goods.
- Reduced Passenger Flights Impacting Cargo Capacity: The grounding of passenger planes, which are often used for transporting cargo in their lower deck compartments, resulted in a reduction of cargo capacity. This led to a shortage of available space for air cargo shipments and increased freight rates.
- Shift in Cargo Demand: With changes in consumer behavior and lockdown restrictions, the demand for certain products shifted. There was a surge in e-commerce orders, home deliveries, and a decline in shipments related to industries such as fashion and automotive.
- Enhanced Safety Measures and Compliance: Air cargo operators implemented stringent safety measures to protect their employees and ensure the safe handling of cargo. This included sanitization procedures, contactless processes, and compliance with health and safety regulations.
- Focus on Vaccine Distribution: As Covid-19 vaccines were developed and approved, air cargo played a critical role in their global distribution. The transportation of vaccines required strict temperature control and specialized handling, creating new challenges and opportunities for the air cargo industry.
Key Industry Developments
- Expansion of Drone Delivery: The use of drones for last-mile delivery gained momentum during the pandemic. Air cargo operators and e-commerce companies are exploring drone delivery solutions to improve efficiency and reach in urban areas and remote locations.
- Integration of IoT and RFID Technology: The integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is enhancing supply chain visibility in the air cargo market. These technologies enable real-time tracking, monitoring, and data collection throughout the transportation process.
- Focus on Sustainable Fuels: Air cargo operators are increasingly exploring sustainable fuel options, such as biofuels, to reduce carbon emissions. Collaborative efforts are underway to develop and adopt sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to mitigate the environmental impact of air cargo operations.
- Investment in Infrastructure: Air cargo operators and governments are investing in the expansion and modernization of infrastructure to meet the growing demand for air cargo services. This includes the construction of new cargo terminals, the enhancement of handling capabilities, and the improvement of connectivity between airports.
- Adoption of Contactless and Paperless Processes: The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of contactless and paperless processes in the air cargo industry. Digitalization initiatives, such as electronic air waybills (e-AWB) and digital documentation, are being implemented to streamline operations and minimize physical interactions.
- Advancements in Cargo Tracking Technologies: Innovative cargo tracking technologies, such as GPS, geofencing, and real-time monitoring systems, are being deployed to provide enhanced visibility and security throughout the transportation process. These technologies enable shippers and customers to track their shipments in real time and receive timely updates.
- Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI technologies, including machine learning and predictive analytics, are being integrated into air cargo operations. AI-powered systems help optimize route planning, predict demand, automate processes, and enhance decision-making for improved operational efficiency.
Based on the market trends and developments, analysts suggest the following strategies for industry participants:
- Embrace Digitalization: Air cargo operators should invest in digital technologies to streamline operations, enhance customer experience, and improve overall efficiency. This includes adopting digital platforms, implementing end-to-end tracking systems, and leveraging data analytics for informed decision-making.
- Foster Collaboration: Collaboration and partnerships among air cargo operators, logistics companies, and technology providers are essential to enhance network coverage, improve service capabilities, and meet evolving customer expectations. Joint efforts can result in seamless connectivity, shared resources, and enhanced operational efficiency.
- Focus on Sustainability: With increasing environmental concerns, air cargo operators should prioritize sustainability initiatives. This includes investing in fuel-efficient aircraft, exploring sustainable fuel options, and implementing eco-friendly practices to reduce carbon emissions and enhance environmental responsibility.
- Enhance Last-Mile Delivery: The last-mile delivery segment presents opportunities for innovation and differentiation. Air cargo operators should explore advanced delivery solutions, such as drones and autonomous vehicles, to improve speed, efficiency, and customer convenience in the final stage of the delivery process.
- Adapt to Changing Demand: Air cargo companies need to be agile and adaptable to changing market dynamics. This includes adjusting capacity, optimizing routes, and diversifying service offerings to align with evolving customer demand and industry trends.
The future outlook for the air cargo market is optimistic, driven by several factors:
- Continued Growth of E-commerce: The expansion of e-commerce is expected to drive sustained growth in the air cargo market. The increasing preference for online shopping and the rise of cross-border e-commerce will create significant demand for fast and reliable air cargo services.
- Technological Advancements: Ongoing advancements in technology, such as IoT, AI, and blockchain, will continue to transform the air cargo industry. These technologies will improve operational efficiency, enhance supply chain visibility, and enable seamless connectivity between stakeholders.
- Focus on Sustainability: Environmental sustainability will remain a key focus in the air cargo market. Air cargo operators will continue to invest in sustainable practices, including the adoption of sustainable fuels and the reduction of carbon emissions, to align with regulatory requirements and meet customer expectations.
- Market Expansion in Emerging Economies: The growth of emerging economies, particularly in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Africa, presents significant opportunities for the air cargo market. Rising disposable incomes, expanding consumer markets, and increasing trade activities will drive the demand for efficient air cargo services in these regions.
- Recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic: As global economies recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the air cargo market is expected to rebound. The resumption of international travel, relaxation of restrictions, and increased consumer confidence will contribute to the recovery of passenger flights, subsequently providing more capacity for air cargo shipments.
- Focus on Supply Chain Resilience: The disruptions caused by the pandemic have highlighted the importance of supply chain resilience. Air cargo operators will prioritize building robust and flexible supply chains that can withstand future disruptions, including the implementation of contingency plans and the diversification of transportation modes.
- Advancements in Delivery Technologies: The future will witness further advancements in delivery technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and drone delivery. These technologies will play a significant role in improving last-mile delivery efficiency, particularly in urban areas and remote locations, enhancing speed and convenience for customers.
- Regulatory Changes: The air cargo market will continue to face evolving regulatory requirements, particularly in terms of safety, security, and environmental standards. Air cargo operators will need to stay updated with regulatory changes and invest in compliance measures to ensure seamless operations.
The air cargo market is poised for growth in the coming years, driven by factors such as the expansion of e-commerce, technological advancements, and the focus on sustainability. The industry will witness increased collaboration, digitalization, and the adoption of innovative technologies to improve operational efficiency and customer experience. As the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, the air cargo market will play a crucial role in supporting global trade, providing swift and reliable transportation solutions for various industries. By embracing emerging trends, fostering collaboration, and adapting to changing market dynamics, industry participants can position themselves for success and capitalize on the opportunities in the evolving air cargo market.