An inter-dependent ecosystem

posted on 27th May 2020
An inter-dependent ecosystem

As TIACA we have the privilege to count among our members companies from all parts of the air cargo industry and supply chain and from all over the world. And it is clear that this crisis poses different challenges for each of the sectors and companies. However, we are part of an ecosystem and very dependent on each other.

As an airline company, handler, airport, trucker or forwarder, we all suffer the consequences of this crisis, but the concerns and challenges are often different. However, several common factors link them together. The implementation of new processes and new ways of working has been a key element, as has adaptability. In addition, government support – both in response to overly restrictive regulations and through financial assistance for the sector – has been an experience shared by the majority of players in our industry. And we have done – and continue to do – everything we can to support them, in particular through lobbying on behalf of air cargo.

Intensive cooperation
We have worked very intensively with other organisations such as ICAO, WHO, IATA, when it comes to policy. We are very much in favour of joining forces and strongly believe that together we will achieve faster and better results for the benefit of our industry. At the same time, we also notice that other organisations and politicians in the broader issue of aviation often forget to look at air freight. So, giving enough attention to this and continuing to insist on the importance of air freight is something we have done very actively.
Finally, we are also very pleased that we have been able to assist many individual members in continuing their operations or certain parts of operations, by contacting local governments or organisations and weighing on the agenda or by being able to escalate and solve problems through our network.

We have also launched a survey to identify the main needs and problems that our members are currently facing so we can adjust our work and help our members as best we can, particularly in the reconstruction phase post-COVID-19.

Supporting the air cargo sector
While aviation is being hit hard, we must not forget that the air cargo industry is doing an incredibly good job and is once again demonstrating our strengths and qualities. Unfortunately, many companies in our industry also depend on what happens on the passenger side; the many airlines, handlers or airports are hit hard, and air cargo is not immune to the consequences.

Now that the first measures have been taken to guarantee the supply chain and to continue to provide the world with air cargo capacity, it will be important to look further and ensure that our industry emerges from this crisis as unscathed as possible. It is utopian to think that later this year everything will return to normal; it will take a long time before aviation in general will have recovered. And that will have an impact on air freight.

We owe it to our members to help them prepare for the future. This aspect will of course be part of TIACA’s work in the months to come. We’re not there yet, but we owe it to ourselves to anticipate these issues well ahead of time.

Proud to work in air freight and logistics
Today you can be proud if you work in logistics, and especially in air freight. In many countries, this branch has been proclaimed a critical economic sector. Despite all the challenges, we have once again demonstrated our flexibility, agility and speed to adapt to the new reality. We really must be proud of that. In a lot of companies, air freight was the little brother, but at the moment we are in the spotlight. And rightly so. Hopefully, in the years to come, we will be able to cash in on the credit we have built up in recent weeks.

Changes and opportunities
All crises have something in common: they highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each system. Air freight and its stakeholders are no exception. Changes will undoubtedly occur in our industry, and we could see new leaders emerge – and perhaps even new activities. I expect a brighter future for the full freighters in the coming years, because the recovery of all that belly capacity will not be as fast as many hope or think.

We are also already seeing a greater demand for digital solutions. Paperless now suddenly also has the advantage that it means contactless. And apparently that is currently a bigger driver for many companies than the operational efficiency that digital brings. And even though the financial pressure is increasing for many companies in this struggle for survival, we also notice that sustainability in the broader sense is becoming even higher on the agenda of many companies in their strategy to be stronger in the future.

Lessons from this crisis
It is always dangerous and difficult to draw lessons while we are still in a crisis. 10 years ago, we had a financial crisis, and it was different from this one. Within 10 years, we will probably have another crisis and it will be different again. We should also dare to approach a crisis as a crisis, not as something structural. But it is clear that companies with a vision and a sustainable model survive a crisis better and easier than very opportunistic companies that have many more weak links in their chain and are therefore much more susceptible to disruption. And I feel that this will become a very important element in the coming years. What’s the point of earning a few percent more each year, if every few years a crisis wipes out all that advantage (and more) in the short term and even threatens the survival of the company?