Air freight services gained significant traction during the global health crisis, propelling the industry towards a new era of growth and innovation. Brendan Sullivan, the IATA’s Head of Cargo, highlights that although the industry priorities—digitalization, sustainability, and safety—remain unchanged, the narrative has evolved significantly. Furthermore, the upcoming World Cargo Symposium, set to take place in Hong Kong from 12-14 March 2024, will be a platform to demonstrate advancements in these areas.

Previously, the focus of the industry was on the improvements needed to enhance services. Today, the focus has shifted towards effective implementation and extracting valuable insights from accomplished improvements.


Some industry leaders have completed significant digital transformation projects, broadening the industry knowledge about these initiatives. A significant outcome is ONE Record, a global standard for data exchange. This tool promotes data sharing instead of just peer-to-peer communication, creating a plethora of opportunities, including generative AI and automation.

Crucially, ONE Record boosts efficiency—crucial for meeting the speed demands of e-commerce. All participants connected via ONE Record can track a shipment in real-time. This visibility speeds up product delivery and makes it easier to manage disruptions. Considering that air cargo handles approximately 80% of cross-border e-commerce, this development is key to meeting future demands.


The air cargo industry is moving towards the next stage of sustainable development. Significant strides are being made in minimizing single-use plastics, reducing the weight of containers, increasing recycling potential, and eliminating perishable waste. At the same time, cargo facilities are being redesigned to minimize energy usage.

The industry’s increased focus on sustainability aligns it with the broader goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Sullivan points out that this challenge requires a comprehensive approach to identify necessary solutions, involving the full participation of the air cargo sector.

Safety and Security:

The major safety and security developments include changes to ICAO Annex 18, ensuring enhanced oversight of shippers in the air cargo supply chain. Other critical safety measures include standardizing a fire test for lithium batteries and adjusting regulations regarding the state of charge for lithium batteries in cargo holds to reduce fire risk.

Meanwhile, the rollout of Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI) in the EU is causing confusion, mainly due to varying interpretations of the protocols by different countries. Greater harmonization is required for this additional security layer to be effective in air cargo operations.

Sullivan believes that the sector is on the verge of a breakthrough year, with potential growth and positive advancements in key areas. He invites everyone to participate in the World Cargo Symposium to delve deeper into these vital topics and witness the Future Air Cargo Executive competition in one of the world’s most significant air cargo hubs—Hong Kong.

The air cargo industry has indeed weathered the storm of the global health crisis and emerged stronger, with a renewed focus on digitalization, sustainability, and safety. But what does this mean for the future of air freight services?

Firstly, the advancements in digitalization bring greater efficiency to the industry, not only in terms of tracking shipments but also in overall operations. With the implementation of ONE Record, data sharing will become more streamlined and automated, reducing the risk of errors and delays. This will ultimately lead to faster delivery times and improved customer satisfaction.

Secondly, the increased focus on sustainability aligns the air cargo industry with larger environmental goals. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, companies that prioritize sustainability will have a competitive advantage. With initiatives such as reducing single-use plastics and minimizing energy usage, the air cargo industry is taking significant steps towards a greener future.

Lastly, the enhanced safety and security measures in the air cargo supply chain not only protect shipments but also boost consumer confidence. With standardized protocols and increased oversight, passengers can rest assured that their goods are being handled safely and securely. This will also contribute to continued growth in cross-border e-commerce, as more and more consumers turn to online shopping.

Overall, the future of air freight services is bright, with advancements in digitalization, sustainability, and safety paving the way for continued growth and innovation. As we look towards the upcoming World Cargo Symposium in 2024, it is evident that the industry is determined to stay ahead of emerging trends and challenges, solidifying its position as a crucial player in the global economy. So while there may be an end to this document, there is no end in sight for the potential of air freight services. The sky’s the limit! # Endless possibilities with air freight services