IATA Wants More Modernization and Quality

There was much talking and maybe less action at the recent IATA World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi this month.
Plenty of good intentions, but some say, a lack of dedicated action.
One of IATA’s many messages to the industry was a call for Air Cargo Modernisation.

Everybody wants to keep up with the times
And - in this case IATA and the airline industry as a whole should be no exception.
In his opening address, Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO made a plea for the air cargo industry to speed up modernisation and focus on giving high quality service.

A strange call to the many aviation managers who listened, as one would imagine that airlines and aviation related industry would have been doing just that during the past two decades.
Especially as to what high quality service concerns!
So, what is the industry not doing, what it should long ago have done?

Tonnage and volumes dropped in past years
The industry has surely had a hard call during the past years. Declining market segments, too much capacity, drastic drops in yields and resulting red figures for many on the air freight side.
But, will “listening to the customer” solve the industry’s problem?
Or, is more impetus and actual action on the part of the IATA managers a must in order to finally coordinate and move systems up front in order to make air freight carriage more attractive for the shipping industry?

IATA lists two main areas of action
The first that Mr de Juniac highlighted was “simple and modern electronic processes.”
We seem to have been hearing this particular subject for almost a decade. Paperless transport into a pure digital process - e-freight.

IATA helmsman Alexandre de Juniac
IATA helmsman Alexandre de Juniac

The cargo industry is lagging severely behind on this, with some areas, particularly the Far East, moving faster than all others. We have apparently just about reached the 50% range on e-airwaybill implementation within almost ten years and IATA (proudly?) claims a 62% by the end of this year.
Nothing really to be proud of.


The other issue tabled was better or “high quality services.”
This is especially geared towards catering for the customer needs in the fast growing e-commerce market.
But, what are traditional carriers, compared to their integrator rivals, actually doing or have achieved in this area? Furthermore, what plan does IATA have to promote this?
Amazon with their Prime Air along with Chinese SF Express are running away with this market and have long understood what it’s about and what is needed to keep the customer happy.
Others are openly stating that the legacy carriers have still not cottoned on and are waiting for a miracle to come around the corner.
Is this so? And - if it were the case, where does IATA  in the positive sense “kick”  its member airlines to move faster?


Glaring discrepancy between conference appeals and action
What happens to all these good intentions once such conferences are over?
We have seen a negative result in the past 3 to 4 years as far as pinning down a watertight ruling on the carriage of lithium batteries by air.
Transport on passenger aircraft - no, but on freighters - yes!
Still no hardline approach to producers and shippers to get in line.
IATA should be the lead member in all of the above.

Let’s hope that de Juniac’s plea at the WCS does not go unattended and we’ll be hearing some of the same next year.
It is IATA’s prime duty to ensure a follow up on “word into action.”

John Mc Donagh

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