Pascale De Mieter wanted to see the world for free and decided to become a flight attendant with former Belgian national carrier Sabena. The collapse of Belgium’s flag carrier led her to the air cargo business. It was love at first sight, she admits. Joining her husband at the helm of Coastair as its CEO, was the latest venture in her career.
How did you end up in the cargo industry?
PDM: “Three weeks after the collapse of Sabena in 2001, I started at Israeli carrier CAL. I had frequently flown to Israel and got to like the country and the people. It has brought me some contacts in Tel Aviv. So, I worked myself up to the position of Commercial Manager Europe for CAL. I stayed there until 2017. After 6 months at a freight forwarder I joined Air Belgium as Cargo Manager Europe. But CAL was the environment in which I learned everything about air cargo. It was a Spartan education, but I really fell in love with it. At Air Cargo Belgium I had the honour to work forJohn Cooper and Niky Terzakis, both legend in the air cargo industry where I have learned now to start up a cargo department from zero. Both companies gave me the solid car-go foundation for building up Coastair to the next level.”
What is so special about air cargo?
“I know when I start my day, but I don’t know when it will finish. Every day should be a challenge. I solve problems that people are not aware of and which I am not able to sometimes explain.”
“The air cargo industry is also a very open community, which forces you to maintain the highest business ethics. Being such a small world, means that cowboys are identified quite easily. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to maintain your values by respecting your customers’ wishes as well as your partnerships.”
Is it difficult to be a woman in this industry?
“A few weeks ago, I spoke about ‘Women in the air cargo industry’ at the air cargo handling conference in Paris. I do not want to be a Jeanne D’Arc, but I have experienced lots of things. I had to prove myself two to threefold compared to the men. Be powerful, but not too much, be yourself, but don’t be too much of yourself. Seem to feminine and you come across as vulnerable and unqualified to be in charge. Be less feminine (read: too tough) and you’re disliked.”
Has all of this affected you in any way?
“It has made me very hard. Air cargo has really changed my DNA. I can take decisions very quickly. But the air cargo industry is still a man’s world, even if some customers are women as well.”
What are the main changes you have witnessed over the years?
“The customer’s behaviour changed. Everything comes down to service and money. You have to act more creatively. It is no longer the big companies having the biggest market shares but those that know how to act in a creative way, that are able to market and re-invent themselves that are gaining market share. Only the ones who are able to adapt themselves will be able to survive.”
Marcel Schoeters in Liege
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