Airline Cargo Management Editor Satu Dahl caught up with TIACA secretary general Vladimir Zubkov and TIACA chairman Steven Polmans to learn how the industry is innovating in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
What impact have you seen on air cargo due to coronavirus?
Vladimir Zubkov, Secretary General, TIACA: COVID-19 has a major impact in all areas of our life, on the entire global economy and on the aviation industry too, in a big way. The consequences are detrimental, particularly for airlines in the wake of travel restrictions. Air freight has a major role to play being a significant contributor to the global economy and international trade and having a very important role in preventing and battling the disastrous effect of coronavirus. The air cargo supply chain secures deliveries of basic necessities such as food and medical products. There is a big increase in demand for charter flights and any other means of transporting cargo by air. Rates are following the demand on capacity. The fluctuation and often shortage in cargo capacity is often exacerbated by the governments’ measures restricting the movement of goods. Those could have highly undesirable consequences.
This is why we are taking concrete action together with other international aviation organisations within a technical group on joint actions related to COVID-19, specially created by ICAO. Other members of it are WHO, WCO, IATA, ACI, CANSO, FIATA and GEA. The objective – through the ICAO mechanism to influence governments’ decisions and give them the elements needed for their decision-making processes. Our key task there is to safeguard the functionality of the air cargo supply chain to the maximum extent possible.
Our mission is also not only to raise at the high level the many issues our members encounter during this crisis, but to keep air cargo stakeholders informed of the actions taken, trends in the regulatory field and market behaviour.
This is why we have created a webpage dedicated to #COVID19 on our website, allowing quick access to information about the crisis, what TIACA has been doing and the situation in air freight. This page also includes links to the websites of our partners, ICAO, IATA and ACI, for specific information such as regulatory frameworks.
In addition, every week, we report specific issues raised by air freight stakeholders to the ICAO Technical Group. We also regularly inform TIACA members and all other subscribers of the progress we have been able to make via the Friday Flyer, our weekly newsletter, as well as regular press releases and TIACA’s social networks.
How do you see your intelligence sharing agreement with CLIVE Data Services benefiting your members?
Steven Polmans, chairman, TIACA: First of all, it is clear from our recent consultation with our members that they want TIACA to provide them with economic data on air cargo that is useful to their business. CLIVE Data Services developed a new methodology for measuring the level of use of aircraft cargo capacity and whose accuracy has been confirmed. Through this partnership, we will be able to share with them up-to-date analyses on air cargo developments around the globe and fulfil our commitment to our members. Thus, they get, on a weekly basis, a snapshot for a certain market and on a monthly basis a bit more background information.
They will receive information through the monthly TIACA’s Cargo Pulse and the weekly announcements through social media.
How is the air cargo industry becoming more sustainable?
Steven Polmans: Sustainability considerations, especially environmental footprint and social impacts are increasingly important for air cargo customers and providers. There is a clear call for more sustainable practices and more transparency in that matter as customers want to be able to choose their transport providers based on speed, price and sustainability parameters. Little by little, airlines, airports, manufacturers, handlers and IT providers have embarked on sustainability initiatives, but not all, and not all at the same pace.
One of the objectives of TIACA’s sustainability programme is to support the industry in accelerating change by inspiring people, sharing best practices and encouraging innovation to make air cargo more sustainable.
TIACA’s Sustainability Working Group has prepared an industry survey to understand where the air cargo industry is with sustainability initiatives, targets, priorities and progress. Due to the current crisis, we have decided to put it on hold as today’s focus is to get critical cargo moving and save aviation’s business. Once the situation has improved, we will launch the survey. We believe this will help TIACA and the industry to establish global targets and action plan and to follow up year-on-year on progress.
How are you attracting more young people to join the industry?
Steven Polmans: In normal circumstances, attracting and retaining young talent is a major challenge for our industry – for its development, to bring new skills into the industry and, of course, for the survival and sustainability of our industry. Some companies are experiencing real difficulties in recruiting qualified profiles, which reflects a lack of knowledge of our industry and its lack of appeal. Many people start their careers in air cargo by chance – we want more people to enter the industry by choice.
Our goal is to overcome the challenges our industry faces in terms of boosting its profile and increasing visibility of the wide variety of possible careers in air cargo.
As such, we work in partnership with other organisations that are involved in initiatives in this field, in which we try to work together and strengthen each other’s programmes. A good example is the Future Air Cargo Executives (FACE) programme, implemented by IATA in response to the industry’s need for young and diverse aspiring professionals. The aim of the programme, supported by TIACA, is to attract, retain and develop a bright and diverse pool of individuals under 36 to prepare them to become the next generation of leaders in the cargo industry.
In addition to these existing initiatives, we are developing the TIACA SWAP initiative, which is designed to appeal to younger generations and draw their attention to the air cargo industry. It aims to benefit companies that are seeking their next wave of leaders and decision makers. Under the initiative, for any TIACA members who are looking to invest in their workforce and their future, we’ll facilitate a talent swap between two companies through an online application. Each organisation will host the incoming participant (aged under 35) from the other company. As a result, each participant will gain the benefit of another company’s knowledge, organisation and best practices, helping them to better understand the air cargo supply chain. It’s a win-win swap, both for the companies and for the participants. Work is still in progress, but the official launch should take place in the coming months.
Which recent innovations do you consider the most ground-breaking for the industry?
Steven Polmans: Our industry may not be the most innovative, but day after day we see our industry develop and implement technologies and innovations borrowed from other sectors (e-tools, APIs, automation processes, etc.) – and that’s a good thing. We must draw inspiration from the successes and advances developed outside the air freight sector – draw inspiration from what is being done elsewhere. In other words, we need to take a step back to decompartmentalise our industry.
Without a doubt, digitalisation is going to be an important aspect in this, allowing us to embrace and implement innovations that are already in place in other industries or at other players. This does not mean that we should simply adopt existing solutions, but it is a good first step that will enable us to be truly innovative.
For instance, integrators – which are less fragmented than the traditional industry – are already showing what could be the way forward. While some big steps need to be taken, I think at the same time it is very important we move forward – constantly. Perhaps even by taking small steps. Often, we spend too much time hoping and looking for “one big thing”, rather than taking action based on a range of small initiatives.