Peter Conway/LONDON Global Freight Exchange (GF-X), the web-based system for buying and selling air cargo capacity, will face its moment of truth in September when it starts taking live bookings and opens up membership to any forwarder or airline that wishes to join.

Eight forwarders and nine airlines have been trialing the system, including Cargolux, British Airways, Swisscargo, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Emirates, DHL, American Airlines and Continental.

In early August, David Ravech, co-chief executive of GF-X, said all 17 companies have signed contracts, but this does not commit them to continue with the system after the trial period.

Though initially billed as a purely online marketplace, one of GF-X's benefits is its potential to automate air cargo bookings, now done mainly by fax or phone, and as a yield management tool. Ravech draws parallels with Amadeus or Galileo on the passenger side.

A key aspect of the system is that it will enable airlines to offer different deals to different customers, allowing them to trial new products in confidence. Ravech predicts this will give airlines a new yield management tool.

"It will mean that any carrier can create an express product or any other kind of special service almost instantly, without having to print brochures or train sales staff," he says.

He compares this to the approach adopted by supermarkets which test a product on a few stores, and if it is successful, roll it out more widely. "There is scope for a lot more segmentation in cargo products, and GF-X is about finding a way to communicate the differences between those products more easily," says Ravech.

However, part of the functionality required will only be available in phase two of the system, due for launch in November. This will enable airlines to include details of time-definite products or other performance guarantees as part of their online quotes.

Investors in GF-X include forwarders Deutsche Post and Panalpina, along with Lufthansa Cargo, British Airways and SAirLogistics, cargo arm of Swissair.

Source: Airline Business