I started my career in KLM Cargo well before we had a unique strategy, but we were very good at following IATA rules and processes, and operationally were absolutely outstanding compared to our competitors. This brought KLM Cargo into high esteem with shippers, consignees and the professional freight forwarders of the day. Within the rules we were the best, and although others could field more capacity, for example with the first 747Fs, we still held our own by balancing the Combi with lower deck capacity in the passenger variant.
Our mistake at the time was not realising earlier that IATA, by seeking consensus and common solutions for all, would kill individual initiatives. IATA’s one-stop shop approach would lead to the commoditisation of air cargo, and the forwarders and integrators taking away control of our destiny, profitability, entrepreneurship and status in logistics as an airline.
You understood all this from the very beginning, and with Jacques, set out to make sure KLM had a future, and the value of the cargo contribution to a scheduled airline would be recognised, transparent and supported. No one else in the industry’s upper management had the same foresight, no one realised there were two segments to our future as a scheduled cargo airline business. One required dedicated focus on products, today called “verticals”. The other side, driven by the forwarders, was a price-driven equation, and to serve that efficiently you must drive down costs to the lowest level possible.
Why bring all this up now? Surely history has proven that more than 30 years ago in KLM, we were right in cargo, and wrong with the rest.
We all knew that by being open, transparent, and by using the Cargovision platform as a tool, because it was a perfect vehicle to promote thought change in the industry, we were being honest to all stakeholders.