It is not just the carriers that are feeling the heat. But even amidst the troubles, some logistics operators are finding ways to keep their businesses flying high. Global sales and service agent (GSSA)ECS is pushing ahead with modernisation plans that will help it climb further still – once the industry makes its way through this temporary turbulence. ECS manages over 900,000 tonnes of air cargo on behalf of airlines, representing an annual sales volume of over €1bn. It offers a worldwide network of 137 offices across 47 countries, with over 1,000 staff working as a fully integrated organisation. The company has a history of expansion through acquisitions – major recent ones such as AVS GSA Group in Asia (2016), Exp-Air Cargo in Canada (2017),BCS Air in Brazil (2018), and Wexco in Oceania (2019) strengthening ECS’s position in markets with strong growth potential.In an exclusive interview, Adrien Thominet, CEO, ECS Group discusses with Ritika Arora Bhola,on how they are contributing to the revival of the sector, reinventing it and driving it forward, by putting in place a clear and ambitious strategy, supported by digital technology and business intelligence tools that helps their airline clients to succeed.

What are the key trends to watch out for in the global aviation industry in this year and beyond?

The market has been totally destabilised by fluctuations in supply and demand. And this instability in the supply/demand ratio is having an extreme impact on yield.

The first trend in the industry is yield optimisation on a short-term level, i.e. yield micromanagement. Airlines need to be able to anticipate day-to-day market trends. ECS Group has adapted to this trend by offering its customers the yield optimisation service, which means that we advise them in their decision-making to optimise their yield via our market analysis.

The second emerging pattern is a need for greater flexibility. To be able to adapt to the market’s volatility, stakeholders need to be able to count on a range of logistics solutions designed on a case-by-case basis. We are perfectly aligned with this need, supported by our tailor-made offerings that are designed keeping each client in mind instead of simply using standard offerings (e.g. P2F).

Finally, the need to meet the technical requirements of specific products is the third major shift within the industry, with the big focus being on transporting pharma and COVID-19 vaccines. This area is so complex that specific expertise is highly required. Within ECS Group, we’re able to offer our logistic expertise with these product types (pharma, perishables, hazardous goods, etc.) because we can provide all the services that an airline can.

As a GSA, what are the most important metrics that track your services’ success while serving a particular airline?

Adaptability: We’re able to adapt to the requirements of each of our clients – to each of their specific needs and to all situations. This is crucial because we work with a very wide range of stakeholders.

Commitment and expertise: This is what allows us to offer business opportunities that generate extra revenue for our clients.

Value creation: We are constantly expanding our offerings and creating new services to meet the ever-changing customer needs.

Outsourcing solutions: We offer optimisation and cost reduction solutions via tailored outsourcing solutions.

Please elaborate on your role as a GSSA, when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine distribution. How are you assisting airlines as it’s a crucial time for them considering readiness and preparation?

We are assisting airlines with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through TCE, an entity created two years ago to meet all of our client’s operational needs by combining ops, sales and business intelligence expertise. Our operational expertise allows us to provide all the logistics solutions clients need (partnerships with cool chain specialists– dry ice and electric cooling equipment suppliers, electric cooling devices, vacuum and phase change materials, specific pharma management skills, etc.). Our expertise in these areas covers the entire supply chain to provide services in line with the preferences clients reveal.

Thanks to our commercial expertise, we’re able to implement every possible solution to develop business opportunities– charter flights, P2F flights, co-loading, and more. Our teams are available to answer each and every quote requests 24×7.

Supported by our BI expertise, TCE offers truly essential added value in terms of yield management. We’re able to ensure our clients are ideally placed to respond to potential opportunities.

Any intention of adding more airlines or projects that may soon come to fruition?

In recent years, ECS Group has incorporated a range of partners and has expanded its network in the Americas (e.g. Exp-Air Cargo in Canada and BCS Air in Brazil) and in Asia and Oceania (AVS GSA Group and Wexco). This strategy of acquiring the best local GSAs, with their perfect knowledge of the markets, has paid off, because it has allowed us to develop new opportunities throughout recent months. Going forward, we will continue with this strategy that is an integral part of our DNA– external growth is the reason why ECS Group now has the world’s densest network of GSAs – so we’re currently working on expanding the network via new acquisitions.

How do you foresee future of the air cargo industry?

The first half of 2021 is set to be similar to and follow on from 2020 with high levels of volatility, as I mentioned earlier. As to what happens after that, we certainly aren’t going to pretend to know how the crisis will play out. But first and foremost, we are ready to meet the needs of our clients and to help them get through the crisis. That’s our priority! And nonetheless, we believe that despite these difficult times, there are business opportunities out there – and we’re here to identify and effectively leverage them to ignite our business and soar ahead.

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