It is unbelievable that an industry vital to international trade remains so invisible to the general public.
This may be one of the reasons why the air cargo industry has been allowed to operate in a technological time-warp for so long, while other industry sectors seem to be light years ahead.
Golden Age Of Air Freight
With the golden age of air cargo (10-plus years ago) now supplanted by uncertainty, volatility, encroaching modal shift and a plethora of belly capacity, the need for a seismic shift in mindset is all the more acute. So where does the comeback start?
“We need to be more aggressive as an industry. I think we’ve got a tremendous future, but we just need to get the basics right,” insists Glyn Hughes, the new global head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“We don’t display as much pride in our industry as we should do – even though air cargo transports approximately 35 per cent of world trade by value.”
We need to be more proud of that fact, because air freight has such a positive impact on our lives and we don’t talk it up as much as we should, he ventures. “We want to be able say we’re a high-quality, predictable, reliable, business-plus, premium transportation mode.”
Hughes clearly recognises that air cargo needs a makeover, not least because of the dearth of fresh, young talent operating in it. A firm believer in supporting the next generation of industry leaders, he spends a large portion of his personal time working on outreach programmes with training and other educational establishments. “The sustainability of air cargo involves not only profit, but people,” he stresses.
To raise awareness among the general public, IATA launched an Air Cargo Makes It Happen promotional campaign, which involves leaving postcards and other visual aids with information about the products (Formula One cars and Kenyan cut-flowers, for example) that are transported by the industry – in public places, such as hotels lobbies.