As an all-cargo hub, Liege Airport was in a much more comfortable position during the Covid-19 pandemic than most other airports. Bert Selis (BS), Commercial & Logistics Manager, and Communication Manager Christian Delcourt (CD) look back on the most hectic months in the airport’s history.
The pandemic was an eye-opener. Liege Airport has learned a lot from the current crisis, says Mr. Selis: “Covid-19 has demonstrated the fragility of the supply chain, even if we are on the side that takes most advantage of this. The passenger aircraft were grounded, and transport came down to the freighters. It brought us a volume that was considerably higher, accelerating the on-going growth, which can be described as extraordinary.”
Up to 1.5 million tons expected
To which Mr. Delcourt adds: “We thank all the people working at the airport, who have all done a fantastic job over the last 18 months. The people who are in direct contact with the goods share the same fears as we do: Will I get ill? Will I keep my job if I get sick? Is it safe to touch the goods? There were a lot of uncertainty moving around.”
“They were a support to the medical staff and helped to keep people protected. Over the past 1.5 years, we have transported over 4 billion masks, on top of the vaccines. We all needed logistic support and air cargo travels fast. We had an agreement with the WHO, and we flew a lot to Africa together on their behalf.”
Liege Airport is not secretive about the figures, such as tonnage, turnover, etc. notes Mr. Delcourt. Last year, 1.1 million tons were handled, representing an increase of 24% year-on-year. “For 2021, we forecast between 1.4 and 1.5 million tons - an increase of 35%.”
According to him, this evolution has brought huge challenges in terms of management, staff, and quality of service. “To give but one example: the Challenge Group now employs 500 of its 800 global staff at LGG. It is a fast-growing client of the airport. They have more clients, more volume, and more aircraft.”
“Liege Cargo Agency, a freight forwarder that started as a small and medium enterprise, now has a staff of 140. We are all more than happy for them but managing 140 people compared to 10 is another story. The airport is growing very fast, and you have to find the right people, train them, and above all keep them.”
LGG needed to up its staff, says Mr. Selis. “We have grown by 500 employees per year, in all companies belonging to LGG. And the people have collaborated fantastically in difficult circumstances. They are proud of their job and have demonstrated a great extent of solidarity, which you find in moments of great crisis.”
Christian Delcourt: “We were surprised to have moved more into the spotlight than usual, even though we realize that we are only one important link in a more complex chain. You need vaccines, airlift, trucks, cool stores, etc. on an international level.”
LGG was impacted by the global supply chain problems in its own way, Mr. Selis concludes: “These problems are mostly maritime. The railway connection between China and Europe also has its difficulties. So, more is shifted to air cargo. All freighters are full, but this generates no growth. Both the available number of freighters and their crews have their limits.”
Marcel Schoeters in Liege
We welcome and publish comments from all authenticated users.