Air freight is enjoying almost a frenzy of demand this week as forwarders fight for space and carriers finally enjoy a rate rise.

Space is particularly tight in the EU market, with e-commerce demand from China pushing rates up.

Forwarders are reporting a wait of at least a week on some carriers out of Asia into the EU, with Germany, France and the Netherlands facing the biggest capacity crunch.

And despite a strike, Lufthansa had no cancellations out of Asia.

While the US market is appearing to slow slightly in advance of its Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, forwarders are reporting up to two weeks’ wait for Hong Kong-South America.

“It’s a proper peak season,” said one air freight forwarder. “It’s a bit nuts.”

It is against this frenzied backdrop and increased e-commerce demand that pilots at ABX Air have gone on strike – a move being challenged in the courts today.

ABX has applied for a temporary restraining order to force pilots to end the strike. However, as it filed the plea several hours after the strike began, it admitted that 26 flights had been cancelled, stranding 1.25m pounds of cargo for DHL alone.

The strike has been called by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ local union 1224, whose pilots also fly for Atlas, Southern, Kalitta and Polar Air. Pilots from the union have vowed not to cross picket lines at ABX hubs in Wilmington, Ohio and Cincinnati (CVG), thus affecting other airlines.

According to flight data for CVG, two Polar Air Cargo flights were due to leave for Anchorage and Incheon this morning, with an Atlas Air flight due from JFK.

“The pilot shortage is affecting all of our airlines,” said Robert Kirchner, a pilot with Atlas Air and executive council chairman of APA Teamsters’ Local 1224.

“We stand with ABX pilots in their strike to maintain basic safety standards for all pilots.

“Executives at all of the airlines that service DHL and Amazon need to take stock of the staffing problems at our companies and improve our contracts so that we stop losing our best pilots and can keep up with the demands of our customers.”

ABX is arguing in court that the mediation process has not yet reached an impasse, and that in a suit filed at the end of October, the pilots had told the judge they had no intention of engaging in a strike.

Yesterday’s filing argued: “Should defendants continue these unlawful actions, ABX and its customers will continue to be significantly harmed. Defendants’ concerted actions will continue to cost ABX millions of dollars. Beyond that, defendants’ unlawful strike will continue to interrupt interstate commerce.

“ABX will suffer irreparable injury in the absence of injunctive relief. Even a one-day strike has cost the company untold lost revenue and … and the stranding of over 1.25 million pounds of freight for DHL, and additional freight for the other primary customer. This strike has damage ABX’s goodwill with all its customers.

“ABX is in a fiercely competitive business and can ill afford to upset or lose any customers. As a direct result of the strike ABX’s reputation as a reliable carrier, and its relations with its customers, are put in jeopardy, as are jobs of ABX’s union and non-union employees.”

Despite noting that no money judgment could “adequately compensate ABX for the financial and op operational turmoil and damage to its reputation”, it asks the judge to award damages.

An Amazon spokeswoman told The Loadstar: “We work with a variety of carriers and are confident of our ability to serve customers.”

DHL did not respond.


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