Air France KLM Martinair Cargo aims for digital differentiation

GertJan Roelands. Source: Air France KLM Martinair Cargo

The last few years have seen the air cargo industry rapidly enhance its digital capabilities but Air France KLM Martinair Cargo hopes to stay ahead of the curve.

Air France KLM Martinair Cargo (AFKLMP) has always been at the forefront of digitalisation in air cargo: it was one of the first to offer a quote and book option in 2017 and one of the first to place its capacity on a third-party booking portal back in 2019.

While bookings were initially made manually via a back-office process, the carrier group’s myCargo platform now makes use of dynamic pricing and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

And over the years, the AFKLMP team has worked with airline partners to develop and roll out platform features such as track & trace, station capabilities data, the ability to manage claims, the option to add use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to a booking, and product-specific services for pharma, express, and other specialised cargo.

The investments seem to have paid off. GertJan Roelands, senior vice president sales and distribution at Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, says that in April a record 73% of all its bookings were made through a digital channel.

Meanwhile, the group believes that 90% of its core functionalities are now available online.

However, the last few years have also seen rival airlines close the gap. To stay ahead of the competition, the Franco-Dutch group recently announced a spate of new developments.

During the recent Air Cargo Europe exhibition in Munich, AFKLMP announced the upgrade of its myCargo platform with two new functionalities: Users would now be able to modify bookings as well as book their allocations on the platform.

Roelands says booking modifications would have previously been carried out over the phone.

He says that importantly the system allows forwarders to keep existing capacity while making changes.

“That is why this is unique because you have some options in the industry that are also called modify your booking, but it is really cancelling and making a new booking and with that you risk losing your capacity,” he says.

On allocations, Roelands explains that up until now the allocation process has been very manual.

“We will be able to offer the option to do that online. Customers will be able to book their allocations online, they can view them online, they can change them online.”

He adds that customers will also be able to monitor how much of their allocation they have used as well as directly connect to the system through APIs if they should wish.

“In myCargo, customers will have full visibility of their allocations, where they stand, how much they still need to fill. It gives them much more control – we give them 24/7 the ability to change based on the modify option.”

Source: Shutterstock

Roelands says that one of the reasons the company has managed to stay ahead of the digital curve is that it uses an in-house team to develop its digital offering.

“For sure other airlines have also made big steps,” he says. “But I think our big advantage is that we built everything ourselves.

“We do that in combination with technical experts but also with people from the business and in collaboration with customers. And by doing that we believe we are able to design the most optimal customer journey.”

The digital developments are also benefitting AFKLMP’s own employees, Roelands explains. He describes the approach as bionic: giving employees the best possible tools to help them do the best job possible.

One example is the upcoming implementation of Salesforce across the business to better connect its more than 60 offices worldwide.

He explains that having a strong local presence brings many benefits, which will be enhanced through better connectivity on a single platform.

“We also use a lot of data and AI models to give much more information to our customer service staff to better serve our customers worldwide,” he adds.

Roelands says that staff also have access to the ourCargo system, which essentially mirrors myCargo and ensures its own staff have access to the same information as the customer.

“We believe that front end and back end go hand in hand in order to deliver an optimal service,” says Roelands.

Adriaan den Heijer, executive vice president of Air France-KLM Cargo and managing director of Martinair Holland, adds: “You can compare it with passenger airlines – sometimes, passengers know better if the flight or baggage is delayed than the staff at the airport.

“We take care that on cargo side the same is not happening, that our digital intelligence is moving faster via our portal than the information our teams have access to.”

He adds: “It is very important to bring technology, customers and the business together. You can make the most fantastic functionality but if no one is using it then what is the point.”

Looking ahead, den Heijer says that in the future AFKLMP will look to provide more shipment visibility with technologies such as temperature monitors, ULD tracking, shock monitoring, and compliance. However, he says this is still in the early phase.

Adriaan den Heijer, executive vice president of Air France-KLM Cargo and managing director of Martinair Holland

Roelands adds that data can also be used to help the customer.

“We have a lot of data to understand the demands of our customers. We use that more and more in offering our customers specific solutions, certain destinations, products, or promotional offers, for example.”

While the industry continues to surge ahead with its digital deployments, den Heijer warns that there is a danger that different standards and processes could be developed that hinder connectivity.

He says that AFKLMP has been working with IATA on its One Record project that aims to standardise data processes across the supply chain to create a single record view of shipments.

“We really believe that we have to build the same standards for the future and then every airline or group can make their own flavour of what they think best fits their own company in order to position themselves in the market,” he says.

Looking ahead, the group also hopes to launch other new digital offerings, such as an E-Pharma capability, in the near future.

“And the last big topic that we will probably introduce at the end of the third quarter or beginning of the fourth quarter is our revised product portfolio,” says Roelands.

“We have a product portfolio that has been there for many years. It is super sophisticated but maybe sometimes a bit too sophisticated, so we would like to simplify that and make it fit more to the digital environment.”

Dynamic pricing arrives in air cargo with AF KLM and WebCargo

Digital cargo bookings increase at Air France KLM

Air France KLM Cargo launches sustainable fuel programme

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]