Change on the horizon

posted on 4th March 2021
Change on the horizon

This crisis is an opportunity to make air cargo visible, attractive, smart, and sustainable, believes Celine Hourcade, managing director of Change Horizon and former head of cargo transformation at IATA and transition director of TIACA

In 2020, cargo has been the saviour of aviation: airlines, airports, ground handlers and air cargo contributed to make the world healthier and the economies connected.

We saw how a year in turmoil pushed this industry to work harder than ever together and advance in its digitalisation much faster than in the years before. A sign our industry can do it, it is time to accelerate the digital as well as the sustainable transformation of air cargo and ensure it gets the visibility, attention, and recognition it deserves in the boardrooms, at schools and universities, in politicians’ agendas and in people’s minds.

My wish for the coming year and decade is to not waste any more time nor opportunities to define sustainable recovery and how the ‘good next days’ should look – and make it happen.

In my opinion, the focus should be on these four strategic priorities:

Raise the profile of air cargo: Highlight air cargo’ immense value on the global economic, social, and health systems and to aviation’s bottom line. That is the role of industry associations at global levels like TIACA, and at local levels – especially through the local air cargo communities. CEOs and CFOs of airports, airlines, and ground handlers need to understand better the contribution of cargo to their company’s success, to reprioritise cargo investments in adequate physical and digital infrastructure and skills. What can be done to help heads of cargo to demonstrate the value cargo brings to their company’s bottom line and to their communities?

Focus on people: Recognise the supply chain heroes; attract, develop, and retain talent; ensure diversity and inclusion in the workplace at every level. On that last point, I really expect drastic changes in the coming years: we need diversity in air cargo leadership, within boards, in the speaker line-ups at air cargo events!

Define the new air cargo business: Rethink business and partnership models to establish balanced and winning strategies for all; redesign the physical cargo journey, embedding digital technologies and automation. I have no doubt digital technologies will drive ‘smartization’ of air cargo: data will be shared and intelligently processed to ensure assets are smartly utilised, optimised, and maintained – and processes are efficient from start to end, maximising customers’ satisfaction and business profitability. I am excited to see so many new or well-established companies embracing digital opportunities!

Ensure air cargo is a sustainable freight transport option: Encourage sustainable innovations and practices to reduce the negative environmental footprint of air cargo; invest in sustainable alternative fuels (SAF), new vehicles, eco-friendly packaging, lightweight material, alternatives to single-use plastic, as well as the development of unmanned aviation for the transport of goods where it makes sense. Governments have a critical role to play here to ensure regulatory frameworks support the production and commercialisation of SAF, the development of safe operations of new unmanned vehicles, etc.

Ultimately, I see this crisis as an opportunity to make air cargo visible, attractive, smart, and sustainable.