ECS Group has set up over 500 charter flights between March and August 2020. Adrien Thominet, CEO, ECS Group talks about the changing dynamics of air cargo industry and how the company has survived the pandemic by facilitating customers without any delay. The Group has always benefited from strong synergies, but the crisis has brought everyone closer.
What changes have you seen in the movement of cargo during this pandemic?
Since the beginning of the crisis, ECS Group has worked hard to adapt its service offering to the new ways of working and to airlines’ needs, which have changed with the crisis. The drop in capacity led us to adopt a more flexible and responsive approach to set up new custom operations. Between March and June, the priority was to transport PPE to fight the pandemic, with very high demand for charters to meet the needs of countries worldwide. We organised a lot of these kinds of operations for our clients and we are continuing to offer them these solutions. Between March and August, we set up over 500 charter flights.
What are the long-term complexities we are likely to see in the air cargo business?
There are a lot. The first is the lack of visibility, which makes it very difficult to predict when the recovery will be in terms of air cargo operators, routes and capacities. This has a major impact. With the collapse in commercial flights, only those airlines that are able to convert passenger aircraft into freighters are continuing to generate revenue. We are seeing airlines expand and restructure their cargo activities. ECS Group is the ideal partner to help airlines increase their revenue via cargo on account of custom-made solutions that are adapted to the market and to each individual airline’s situation.
What practices have been adopted by you to survive the pandemic?
Of course, we’ve changed the way we work to facilitate remote working and to continue working for our clients in the best possible way – which means offering them the right solutions at any given moment, without any delay. The most effective best practice for us is undoubtedly the synergies between all of our offices worldwide. We have a dense global sales network that means we can offer business solutions for any and all requests – regardless of destination. It also means we can create new routes. ECS Group has always benefited from strong synergies, but with the crisis, we’ve created even more. It’s brought us all closer.
Accelerating our process of digitalisation has also helped us to support our clients and meet their new needs. An example of this acceleration is the creation of our new in-house e-learning platform, Discovery, which allows us to train our 1200+ employees all over the world. All of our teams, whether they’re in the office or working from home, now have the resources they need to train themselves on the digital tools we offer them (including revenue management and commercial planning, quote issuing, business intelligence, and load optimisation tools) and master their use.
How do you see the post COVID-19 scenario?
It’s very difficult to determine what a post-COVID-19 scenario would be like, as the situation is too unstable at the moment. However, it is possible to envisage a very slow return to normal, with a reduction in airlines’ fleets and networks of at least 30 per cent.
What is your USP that makes you different from other GSSAs?
Without a doubt, our USP is the comprehensiveness of our offering, which stems from 30 years of GSSA expertise. We have a structure and an organisation that are identical to those of an airline – and all the skills to go with it. What that means is that via our services as an outsourcer, we offer all the activities of an airline, whether in their entirety (TCM) or as a bespoke selection: ops, sales, Quality, Safety and Security (QSS), customs, revenue management, pricing, commercial planning, performance management, load optimisation, data centre services, etc. We now also offer our mail expertise in letters and e-commerce parcels with our GSA Mail Solutions service. Our sales strength is bolstered by the digital solutions developed by our Cargo Digital Factory, such as a track and trace system (PathFinder), a business intelligence tool (Apollo), and the automation of certain operations via Robotic Process Automation. We also offer our clients e-booking and e-quoting thanks to our partner platforms. So our teams have been able to develop our services as our clients’ needs have developed. This is the key to our success, and it’s what makes our global sales network the world’s best. Our 1200+ employees in our 155 offices across 50 countries offer both field expertise and in-depth knowledge of their respective markets. And our goal is to diversify and strengthen this expertise to offer our clients more outsourcing solutions to optimise their costs and maximise their cargo revenue. We’re offering additional services outside of the scope of an airline’s activities with handling and trucking, which ultimately make our service offering the most comprehensive available on the market.
What are your expansion plans?
Asia and Latin America remain our geographic priorities in terms of expansion. Over the last five years, ECS Group has undergone significant development in both of these regions by acquiring GSAs and opening subsidiaries. But we have even bigger ambitions, because our clients’ needs in these markets are constantly growing.