Loonie tune: Air freight to O’Hare goes through Toronto

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Logistics companies looking for ways to avoid crushing congestion at Chicago O’Hare Airport have resorted to another workaround: placing shipments on Air Canada passenger cargo ships bound for Toronto. , then truck them to their Windy City facility.

Air Canada (OTCUS: AC) was one of the first airlines to turn to dedicated cargo flights when COVID-19 decimated passenger flights. It has even removed seats from seven two-aisle Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s to create additional space for light cargo in the cabin and continues to deploy cargo-only passenger planes, even though its US counterparts have cut passenger traffic. faster south of the border. .

Constrained by staff shortages and older warehouses with limited space, the cargo terminals at O’Hare International Airport are unable to keep up with the huge growth in shipments carried in large all-cargo planes which became more common during the pandemic. Freight forwarders are increasingly chartering cargo planes due to the limited and unreliable capacity of passenger networks and the huge delays associated with shipping. Many complain that it can take a week to 10 days to collect shipments that have arrived at the Chicago airport.

Several freight handling companies say they are avoiding these delays by booking shipments from Asia to Toronto on Air Canada auxiliary cargo ships.

San Francisco-based Flexport, for example, operates full charter flights with Air Canada several times a week to Toronto, with shipments being transhipped into qualified trucks to make cross-border deliveries to the company’s bonded warehouse. near O’Hare and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. As part of the customs process, goods skip the sometimes lengthy customs clearance process at the border and are not released until the destination facility has submitted the official customs declaration and been approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“It’s brilliant. It works really well,” said Neel Jones Shah, executive vice president and global head of air freight at Flexport, in an interview. “It’s absolute clockwork work. We avoid all of them. traffic jam Air Canada has a great product and we are very happy with the solution.

Air Canada does not have traffic rights to serve the United States directly from a third country. Chicago is over 500 miles from Toronto and it takes about eight hours to get by truck.

Flexport helps speed up the process by delivering fully-built pallets that don’t require the airline to sort through multiple customers’ cargo on arrival. Freight arrives at Flexport freight stations at 6 a.m. the next morning, Jones Shah said.

Offering pre-filled containers rather than bulk cargo is one technique that third-party logistics providers have adopted this year to minimize delays for cargo imported to O’Hare. Some large freight forwarders also continuously redirect some of their inbound volume to airports close to freight, such as Chicago Rockford and Rickenbacker International Airport near Columbus, Ohio. Others even send employees to scour airline warehouses, locate shipments, and expedite their transfer to a truck.

O’Hare handled more than 1.5 million metric tonnes of cargo through July, a 44% increase from a year ago, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

SEKO Logistics, located in the Itasca suburb of Chicago, also uses Air Canada flights to Toronto Pearson International Airport as O’Hare ground agents are inundated and fail to provide service levels minimum he expects, said Shawn Richards, vice president of global air cargo. in an email. Freight forwarder shipments vary from full containers to smaller shipments mixed with other customers. Air Canada uses its route delivery network to move mixed loads to its Chicago facility, where freight forwarders like SEKO pick up their cargo.

“We currently use carriers who show genuine care for our customers and communicate when there is a problem, but more importantly, go above and beyond to ensure that we receive our shipments in a timely manner and without damage,” he said. he declared.

Last year, Global 3PL CH Robinson began operating charter flights between China and Toronto.

“This was helpful as our team was able to move freight from Toronto to any destination in the Upper Midwest or the East Coast fairly quickly with the help of our extensive network of contract carriers across North America,” he said. said Air vice president Matt Castle. “Given the congestion in Chicago, going through Toronto saved our customers delays of several days. “

Air Canada generated a record $ 358 million Canadian ($ 284 million), or loons as the dollar is colloquially called, in the second quarter. It has operated more than 11,000 cargo flights alone since March 2020.

Click here for more FreightWaves / American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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