Stricter air cargo monitoring “not a concern”

From left to right: Airforwarders Association executive director Brandon Fried; cargo.one chief executive Moritz Claussen; Turkish Cargo cargo vice president Americas Salih Kamil Salihoğlu; UPS vice president Susana Pereira; and Southwest Airlines managing director of strategy & business services Michelle Williams. Photo: IATA

Air cargo stakeholders are not concerned about the prospect of increased industry scrutiny following recent aircraft manufacturing-related safety incidents.

During a panel session at IATA’s CNS Partnership Conference, moderator Brandon Fried, executive director at the Airforwarders Association (AfA), spoke about increased Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight of aircraft manufacturing following the recent incidents, asking participants whether they believed monitoring of air cargo might now increase as well.

Responding to Fried during the ‘State of the Industry – Partnering for Changing World’ session, Turkish Cargo cargo vice president Americas Salih Kamil Salihoğlu said: “It’s a possibility but not a concern because the aircraft is the most valuable, the most critical equipment that we use in operations and safety (is important).”

UPS vice president Susana Pereira commented that regulations and safety are also an area of continual review for UPS. “We are very strict internally on how we look into that, so I don’t see a concern.”

Southwest Airlines managing director of strategy & business services Michelle Williams also pointed out the industry is already heavily regulated and always evolving. She stated: “Regulations are designed to keep people and aircraft safe.”

She added: “It’s not a cause for concern. It’s something we need to respond to and we need to do it with a safety-first mindset and be grateful that we have regulations in place for all of the different facets of our business.”

Moritz Claussen, chief executive of cargo.one, added that air cargo operators in Europe are following proceedings closely to see if lessons can be learnt regionally.

He reflected that if the industry can strive to make sure operations are in order “then the impact on air cargo is probably going to be lighter”.

Geopolitical issues are also mounting worldwide and pose continual challenges for the industry, but their impact on air cargo is limited, the panellists agreed.

Pereira stated the industry should look to manage what it can. She said UPS is focused on improving customer experience, operations and sustainability: “The rest we don’t control.”

Fried noted that while air cargo companies can’t control geopolitical events, they can control their reaction.

Meanwhile, Salihoğlu added that naturally, the industry is “fragile” due to these events, plus changing regulations and rates.

Williams pointed out that domestic carriers are also impacted by global issues. She stated this might translate into consumers reducing “discretionary spending”, which then affects e-commerce volumes, for example.

“It’s certainly something that we monitor.” It’s important to be resilient and prepare for hard times, she said.

She added that geopolitical events are “cyclical and if we want to come out of the cycle”, we need to prepare for events that may have a negative impact on the industry.

Fried noted that the industry is not a stranger to the notion of adaptability.

He said: “In air cargo we’re about resilience. We’re about making sure if there’s an issue (somewhere) we can quickly change.”

The panel also highlighted that digitalisation and innovation continue to be a major focus in the air cargo industry.

Comparing the increase in innovation during the pandemic to now, Williams said one of the biggest challenges for Southwest is matching “the pace of innovation we were able to experience during the pandemic”.

The airline is considering whether it is “able to keep up that pace now and what’s appropriate”.

In terms of digitalisation, Moritz pointed out that US air cargo stakeholders are now starting to pick up the pace with regards to investment in booking portal technology.

“European airlines were the first to actually be able to digitally distribute their capacity. The US has quickly caught up over the last couple of years.”

Freight forwarders are also showing a lot more interest in taking their operations further online, he said.

He added that freight forwarders are now looking at whether they can use transport management systems (TMS) in a smarter way: “Some customers aren’t yet ready for APIs, but these can be integrated into TMS.”

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Rebecca Jeffrey

Rebecca Jeffrey
New to aviation journalism, I joined Air Cargo News in late 2021 as deputy editor. I previously worked for Mercator Media’s six maritime sector magazines as a reporter, heading up news for Port Strategy. Prior to this, I was editor for Recruitment International (now TALiNT International). Contact me on: [email protected]