The Covid-19 pandemic has not put a stop to Air France KLM Martinair Cargo’s sustainability efforts, says EVP Adriaan den Heijer. The cargo airline now wants to intensify its focus on becoming a greener carrier, out of its own conviction but also to meet the expectations of many customers.
Over the last few weeks, Air France KLM Martinair Cargo has launched specific sustainability projects such as the implementation of electric handling vehicles at CDG. Moreover, it was the first
cargo airline group to launch a customer-oriented program for the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in December 2020. The introduction of regional feeder services with electric aircraft is
not yet on its bucket list, says Mr. den Heijer.
“I admit that a lot of companies are developing projects like electric freighters, and we are following this with a lot of attention. At the moment the only electric flying vehicles are drones.”
“Going electric is certainly an option for intra-European haulage. That is where the switch can be made. I do not wish to express any forecasts on electric aircraft in the future. You have to start small scale, like the so-called ‘Milk Run’ (a project aiming at combining consignments from multiple forwarders in one truck.)"
It has been 18 years since Air France and KLM merged, bringing together two flag carriers with two distinctive hubs, each supported by national pride. “In the passenger business, some sentiments may have played a part at the start, but in the cargo segment, we have been looking in the same direction for a long time,” says the cargo executive.
“We are a B2B operation with 2 main hubs bound together in 1 network, served by 1 sales team. Our focus is on the customer.”
Connecting both European hubs does not appear to bring a lot of back-and-forth movements, Mr. den Heijer thinks. “Bookings are made through a specific hub, based on the capacity options in the network. This capacity can easily be up or downscaled. Our machinery is well oiled. At the end of the line, a lot of consignments are dragged back-and-forth within the air cargo industry as a whole.”
Slot allocation needs transparency
Say Amsterdam, say slot constraints, and in the on-going discussion some will point the finger at KLM for keeping the foot on the brake, but according to manager den Heijer this image is false.
“Slots are organized by the slot coordinator, who is compelled to go by an objective and transparent system. Slots at Schiphol are scarce, and scarcity can lead to discussions which may be painful. We all have to do with professional stakeholders. You cannot afford a ‘cattle market’ way of slot allocation.”
Covid-19 brought out creativity
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fact that it may be easy to shut down the entire show at the same time, but that it is difficult to start up again, the executive has discovered.
“On the other hand, we found a considerable flexibility in the logistics industry to relaunch the global flows. We developed seat bags to facilitate the move of consignments on seats, launched a new vaccine logistics product, set up a Relief Desk and organized special charter operations for our customers.”
“Within the company as a whole, it has given us the opportunity to show the other business units how flexible and creative we are. There is a lot of respect for the performance of the cargo teams during the Covid-19 crisis.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
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