Last Wednesday (26AUG20), IG AirCargo Switzerland celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Museum of Transport, Lucerne. The event ignited a firework of thematic highlights combined with the presentation of the second Air Cargo Logistics Study. About 120 members and guests attended the show. An opportunity to talk with the Chairman of the Association, Peter Somaglia, about the goals achieved and the tasks still lying ahead.
CFG: Congrats to you and your team on your anniversary! At the beginning, there were 25 member companies. Meanwhile, more than 100 enterprises have joined your organization.
A remarkable upswing! What’s your formula for success?
PS: It’s a multitude of reasons. But above all, I like to point out that airlines, ground handlers, forwarders, trucking companies, GSAs, etc. have recognized the value of a joint approach for defending and driving forward the specific interests of our industry, which are not always supported by politics or the media, to say the least. Furthermore, they appreciate the common platform we offer which allows an easy exchange of experience and information fostering cooperation. This is a precondition to jointly and successfully pursuing local projects at the three international airports: Basel, Geneva and Zurich.
Anniversaries are always an occasion to take stock. What have the greatest successes of IG AirCargo over the past 10 years been? And were there also disappointments or missed chances?
The publication of several industry studies, the acknowledgement in the air political report of 2016 issued by the Swiss government that Air Cargo is “system-relevant” for the Swiss economy, as well as the successful organization of 6 Air Cargo Days with interesting presentations to a great audience have a prominent place at the balance sheet of our organization. Furthermore, the awareness among the members that a joint approach is beneficial to all parties despite being competitors is certainly another remarkable result.
Conversely it is somehow disappointing that the air freight industry is still vastly underestimated in general. It is also a pity that many export companies that frequently rely on air cargo as part of the supply chain are not committing openly to their choice of transportation as they fear a negative public reaction due to climate protection discussions harming their reputation.
IG AirCargo has become the voice of the Swiss air freight industry. Does the Swiss government consider IG AirCargo as an indispensable interlocutor when it comes to air freight matters or do they see your association as an irksome lobby that primarily pursues its own interests? What is your experience in this respect?
We have established a good relation with the responsible offices and in general they appreciate having a competent partner providing accurate and well substantiated information and input.
The University of St Gallen has published a study entitled: "Swiss Air Freight Logistics 2020." What are the most important findings of the analysis that was presented at your anniversary?
Some 50% with a goods value of CHF 157 bn (146 bn euros) were exported in 2019 from Switzerland by air, this makes Air Cargo the most important means of transportation of goods produced in Switzerland and distributed worldwide. Considering only the overseas destinations – where air freight is indispensable – the share is even 82%. In pre-corona times, 2/3 of the goods were carried in the lower deck compartments of scheduled passenger flights.
Air freight increases the margins of carriers particularly on long-haul flights and often make the difference between earning or losing money on a certain route.
Worth mentioning is also the fact that the air cargo industry is a job machine, providing work for roughly 25,000 people in Switzerland.
Although exports are dominant, air freight plays a key role also for the import of goods, accounting for 35% of the value.
Remarkable figures. What’s your next priority?
Measures for a higher degree of digitization allowing the seamless door-to-door tracking of shipments and fast and reliable transportation. They remain a key element of differentiation for shippers when choosing a forwarder or airline to partner with.
Climate protection is another issue standing high on our agenda. Although several improvement programs have been launched, the industry can do even better. I like to emphasize that local programs are nice to have but to fight climate change on a broader scale measures and initiatives must be global in scope. More details are mentioned in our study: https://igaircargo.ch
Air freight played a paramount role in supplying the Swiss people with goods and safeguarding economic processes during the Covid-19 crisis. Will this, supported by the findings of the University of St. Gallen, help air cargo to better its reputation and gain even greater political support?
The concrete need of air transportation for medical but also for consumer goods from overseas has certainly led to a higher awareness of the importance of air cargo for the Swiss population and the Swiss National Council Thomas Hurter confirmed in his speech at the recent Swiss Air Cargo Day that politics is more than ever aware of this fact! Hopefully, this awareness is sustainable and helps us to develop the industry further!
Are there already cargo data available for the first half of 2020, when air traffic practically came to a standstill for months. Supposedly, Swiss companies were hit hard, were they?
The typical Swiss export products such as pharmaceutical products, machinery, parts, and especially high value goods (precious metals, watches, jewelry etc.) require exactly the transport features provided by air cargo – fast, reliable, efficient, secure, and clean. During April and May 2020 air transportation dropped by roughly 70% mainly due to the complete disappearance of long-haul passenger flights to/from Switzerland leading to the lack of lower deck capacity.
Alternatively, cargo was carried to other European airports (FRA, LUX, AMS) where main deck capacity was available.
In the meantime, Swiss International Airlines has reacted and transformed 3 of its B777 passenger aircraft into so called preighters and they offer an attractive network to and from important air cargo locations. Also, other airlines have reacted and are offering highly needed cargo capacity to the Swiss market.
Looking ahead, there is still a lot of work to do for your association: Keywords here climate change and aviation, the use of drones on the last mile, etc. Where do you see the main focus of IG AirCargo in the next 3 to 5 years?
After having set the focus on training, e-freight/e-AWB and the organization of the 6 th Swiss Air Cargo Day during the last 2 years, we will define the topics for the next 2-3 years during the following winter months. I expect that “e-activities” will keep standing high on the agenda followed by measures for improved awareness and reduction of CO2 emissions and of course our possible support of the Swiss export industry and its service partners to find suitable transport solutions for overcoming the Covid-19 obstacles.
Mr. Somaglia, thank you for the insights.
To order the study, please visit: https://igaircargo.ch/index.php/2020-swiss-air-cargo-study-order-form
Interview: Heiner Siegmund
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