Air Freight Deserves Better Acknowledgement, Urges IG Air Cargo Switzerland

The cargo industry is one of the key facilitators for keeping Switzerland's economic engine running at full speed. But despite its undisputed vital role for exports and imports the Swiss government neglects the needs of airlines, forwarders and handling agents widely, criticize the authors of a 52 page policy paper issued by the Zurich-based Interest Group Air Cargo Switzerland.

IG Air Cargo President Peter Somaglia underlined the key role air freight plays in Switzerland’s economy  /  source pictures: hs
IG Air Cargo President Peter Somaglia underlined the key role air freight plays in Switzerland’s economy / source pictures: hs

Why is air freight vitally important for the present and future well-being of Switzerland? Because of those facts, listed in IG Air Cargo’s overview, which are presented in a very clear language:
Although only a meager 0.7 percent off all goods leaving Switzerland are airlifted, by value they represent astonishing 43 percent of total Swiss exports. Import wise it's less, but still their worth reaches 20 percent of all products entering the country.

Some other figures are quite noteworthy as well: The value of each ton loaded on board an aircraft in Switzerland averages €596.721, that’s 300 times more measured against a ton transported by train.
Last but not least is to note that the cargo industry is a job machine, providing direct employment for 25,000 people and indirect work for as many as 163,000 persons.  

Poor political support
However, is this superior role of air freight for the national economy of the Alp state and proven by IG Air Cargo’s figures acknowledged by the government and politics in general? Unfortunately not, criticizes IG’s President Peter Somalia. “In their eyes we are just an appendix of the aviation industry, sort of a fifth wheel on the wagon.” Hence, it lacks a strategy to further develop the sector for enabling the industry to weather future economic storms and not fall behind internationally.

Kurt Lanz of economiesuisse warns of a backward-looking society
Kurt Lanz of economiesuisse warns of a backward-looking society

Society became complacent
The lethargy of the politicians goes hand in hand – or could be a reaction – to the widespread public resistance to further economic growth. “In our society there is a growing retro trend, a kind of an industrial romanticism which is our biggest bar to staying on the top ranks as one of the most productive and efficient economies worldwide,” stated analyst Kurt Lanz of economiesuisse, the umbrella organization representing the Swiss economy. In his stimulating lecture the expert warned of an increasing self-sufficiency of the people that could lead to a rude awakening in some not too distant future. “Surveys prove that in the field of product innovation we are still number one on a global scale. Our economy is world champion in international competitiveness and our infrastructure is of high quality.” But isolationist tendencies endanger this successful business model increasingly, he warned. The expert referred to the February referendum through which the Swiss voted in favor of sharply restricting immigration of foreigners, including inhabitants of EU countries like Austrians, Germans, French, Italians, British or Spaniards, for example. This is a clear violation of the EU principle of free movement. “We are increasingly drifting towards an island status within Europe and the world,” Lanz complained.
The consequences for the air freight and logistics sector are alarming, since the demand for labor, particularly in rather simple, work-intensive services will be hard met with the absence of migrants, banned from coming into Switzerland as result of the referendum’s outcome.

Stagnation is regression, say IG Air Cargo
So what are the IG Cargo Switzerland’s proposals to better the situation of the air freight industry in spite of the unfavorable political and social factors? The main demands are listed in the organization’s policy paper. They read as follows:

  • The government should finally recognize the key role air freight plays for the well-being of the entire economy and treat the industry equally with passenger traffic and especially the railway sector. 
  • At the major airports Zurich, Geneva, and Basel sufficient infrastructural capacity must be provided to enable fast and efficient handling of shipments, including transits of goods.
  • Security controls are sovereign tasks of the national authorities and should be paid for by the state. This way the industry would be relieved from a major cost factor and enable a level playing field with state-aided carriers from the Gulf region.
  • Airlines offering additional intercontinental nonstop flights should increasingly be attracted, linking Switzerland directly with main destinations and markets. Such connections, operated with cargo friendly passenger jets such as Boeing’s Triple Seven or freighter aircraft are an important competitive factor and key for an ongoing success of the country’s export industry. 
  • The cargo industry should intensify their efforts to further specialize their services. Offering tailored services for pharmaceutical products, exporters of watches, valuables in general, electronics, and products of the mechanical engineering sector. These are operational management tasks that should be put into effect. 

Quite a catalogue presented by IG Air Cargo, though. It remains to be seen which of these recommendations and claims have been realized at IG Air Cargo Switzerland’s next Air Cargo Day in 2016.
The organization was founded in 2010 to promote the Swiss air freight industry. The club’s vision is to create, maintain, further develop and refine Switzerland’s air freight system that is – according to IG Air Cargo – based on traditional Swiss values such as reliability and quality. 
Heiner Siegmund

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