DfT produces analysis of the end-to-end journey of UK air freight

12.5.2009 (DfT publication)
Yesterday the DfT published the end-to-end analysis of air freight. This is the
last in the suite of publications, covering the end-to-end journeys of freight
through key UK gateways (container freight and roll-on roll-off freight); and
the end-to-end passenger experience through key UK airports (Heathrow, Stansted,
Luton, Manchester and Gatwick). The air freight end-to-end journey focuses on
Heathrow, the UK’s main hub airport for cargo – through which a quarter of the
UK’s international (non-EU) trade by value is carried; and East Midlands Airport,
the top UK airport for express courier services.
The full suite of analyses is available for download via the DfT website at
http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/userexperience    (56 pages)
The document contains a huge amount of information about air freight, in relation
to the UK.
Some of the interesting facts:
(page 2)
Air freight accounts for a significant share of UK cargo in terms of value. Almost
40% of UK trade with non-EU countries by value is transported by air. Heathrow
alone accounts for a quarter of the UK’s non-EU trade by value (by contrast, Felixstowe,
our largest container port, accounts for 12%); while East Midlands Airport is
a key hub for express courier services, particularly to destinations within Europe.
…. The last comprehensive study undertaken on behalf of the Department, estimated
GDP contribution in 1996 of around £5 billion.(1) This study also estimated that
the UK air freight industry as a whole directly employs in the order of 40,000
to 55,000 people, including those self employed,
(1) UK air freight study report, MDS Transmodal, 1999. The GDP estimate was made
using National Accounts from 1996, inflated to 1998 prices.
(page 4)
The total volume by weight of freight shipped through UK’s international gateways
amounted to 459 million tonnes in 2007, an increase of 82% since 1980. In terms
of tonnage, the predominant mode of transport is by sea; with 93% of extra-EU
international freight being moved by ship.
(page 5)
At a global level, the volume of freight shipped by air has increased dramatically
over the past 40 years. Figure 4 shows a steady growth from 1979 to 2008. The
graph shows that although air freight volumes are forecast to continue to decline
over 2009 as a result of the current economic downturn and the contraction of
global trade, growth is expected to continue over the long-term.
 (page 6)
The overall increase in the size of the air freight market has been driven by
sharply declining air freight rates made possible by the expansion of long haul
passenger services which provide significant bellyhold capacity available for
cargo. In addition, the liberalisation of world trade and the shift in the composition
of world trade towards smaller and lighter shipments has broadened the base of
goods that are shipped by air. Figure 5 shows the tenfold decrease in air freight
rates between 1954 and 2004.
(page 7)
Activity in the global air freight market is strongly correlated with trends
in world trade and is particularly sensitive to trends in sectors that make extensive
use of air freight, such as semi conductors and other high-value manufactures.
 (page 8)
Whilst the amount of UK to international air freight has more than tripled in
line with global trends, the amount of domestic air freight has only increased
by about a third. In total, domestic flights only account for 5% of all UK air
freight (107,227 tonnes in 2008) since narrow-bodied aircraft with minimal bellyhold
capacity are used for these flights, and road transport around the UK is more
cost effective.
(page 9)
The UK imports (57%) more air freight than it exports (43%) by weight. This adds
up to over 1,280,000 tonnes of imports (1,230,000 tonnes excluding domestic air
freight) and 960,000 tonnes of exports. The primary routes for air freight in
and out of the UK are the transatlantic routes to and from the United States for
both imports and exports, and also routes bringing imports from the major Asian
economies. The air freight market to Asia has been growing at a rate of about
8.9% a year, reflecting the opening up of new markets and the emergence of China
and India as global suppliers. This growth is forecast to continue between now
and 2025 as these countries produce increasingly more high-value manufactures.(9)
(9) IATA Freight Forecast 2007–2011.
(page 12)
The main UK import and export commodity categories reflect the use of air freight
for high value or process critical goods. Figure 13 details some of the types
of goods listed under each category, ordered broadly by total amount transported.

There was also an earlier DfT report, December 2008, entitled:
“Delivering A Sustainable Transport System:   The Logistics Perspective”



This stated that:     “About a third of UK visible trade by value goes by air and,
in 2007, UK international air freight transported 2.2 million tonnes of cargo.
And:   “Air freight rates can be expensive relative to alternative modes, in particular

sea freight, and for this reason the market tends to be restricted to goods that
have high perceived value for the customer.   While air freight accounts for only
0.5% of international freight by volume, (? in 2007) its share in value terms
is around 35%.   There is also a significant section of the air freight market
where, independent of the intrinsic value of the goods, air shipment becomes desirable
for a customer, for example where a low-value spare part is needed urgently, or
highly perishable goods can justify the cost of air transport.”
Figure 1.10. UK Air freight commodity 2007 by weight *


2%       Other

2%       Chemicals

2%       Pharmaceuticals and healthcare products

8%      Raw materials

4%       Metals

13%   Food and livestock

15%   Fuels

54%   Manufactured goods

*Non-EU air freight data only.         Source: HMRC (2007)
There is a DEFRA report entitled

“2008 Guidelines to Defra’s GHG Conversion Factors: Methodology Paper for Transport
Emission Factors – July 2008”

This gives the conversion factors used to estimate carbon emissions from various
forms of transport, including air freight.