The Digitisation of Air Cargo

Airfreight may have been late to join the party of digitisation, but now that we’ve started, our industry is making great strides. Discover IAG Cargo and WebCargo’s central role from Camilo Garcia Cervera, Global VP Business Development at WebCargo by Freightos.

What does strategic digital innovation look like in air cargo?

We work in a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s as exciting, dynamic, and challenging as it can be. For decades, in many ways, this industry has successfully operated as if it were the grocery store down the road. But the world and economy are changing. We have old processes that haven’t evolved with consumer behaviour, which is very important.

Buyers, especially younger generations, are no longer willing to entertain non-digital environments. Banking, insurance, personal travel, entertainment: everything is digital. Why would they do airfreight in an old-school way? Digitisation in air cargo has been on the table for many years, but it’s only in the last three or four that we’ve seen serious steps towards making good progress.

Why has it taken airfreight so long to get here?

Traditionally, passenger flights have been considered the bright light in our industry. However, throughout the pandemic, airfreight has been the only income for many airlines and has been a determining factor in saving people’s lives. It’s not a realisation for people within the industry, because we’ve always been aware of our value, but for the external world, the last two years have been a revelation in how crucial airfreight is.

What have you accomplished alongside IAG Cargo?

We’ve partnered with IAG Cargo for almost three years in eBooking activities. As the first cargo booking platform to go live with IAG Cargo, we experienced first hand the drive for innovation at the business. Customers have access to IAG Cargo’s network we’re taking bookings from North America to Asia, with a heavy focus in Europe. That geographical growth in our partnership has been amazing. We’ve also been adding features in terms of the type of airfreight that you can book online.  

Additionally, we’re working together with IAG Cargo on developing solutions for different stakeholders in the industry. Together, we’re also looking at different industry challenges and how we can solve these through digitalisation. We work very closely with IAG Cargo in understanding problems and converting them into opportunities.

I’m thankful to IAG Cargo’s continued support in breaking paradigms and their willingness to move forward with new ways of thinking.

How can other organisations digitise their businesses?

It’s not about bringing paper to a screen. I’m sure that will help, but you haven’t digitised your business until you change the way things are done. How is your organisation structured from a CEO perspective down to every single employee? Digitisation is no longer a tick-box exercise in a company’s business plan.

What are the first steps to make this possible?

Firstly, establish your company’s culture and staff’s KPIs with digitalisation in mind. Secondly, people need to stop believing that digitisation is a way of reducing manpower. Companies should better utilise their human resources, so that staff can start adding more value to their businesses, rather than concentrating on transactional activities.

Transactional activities will always be done better by technology, but the human aspect is very important in this industry. People need to start thinking what activities can be easily transformed into digital ones. So, for example, our eBooking platform has grown our business by over 1,000% in the last year.

How does the eBooking platform work?

We generate live information to our customers, who can login and place a search between airports A and B. Instantly, they’ll get the most accurate information on the available flights and rates. In seconds, they’ll receive confirmation on what would have before taken them hours.

We’re very proudly partnering with IAG Cargo and freight forwarders, working with some regional and niche players. Digitalisation is for everyone: it’s not only available to those with huge budgets.

What changes have you seen since launching the eBooking platform?

Traditionally, as an industry, we look at months that don’t perform as strongly, like January. Through eBooking, we’ve had fantastic results. March is even stronger – it’s by far the best month we’ve seen on the platform. Month after month, we’re beating previous results.

It’s also really cool to see the amount of activity happening during weekends. This industry doesn’t stop, and the fact that offices are closed during weekends shouldn’t prevent people from doing their business. Now, we’ve made it even easier for people to book through our app.

Some people say that even though digitisation has progressed, it’s still not where it should be. What can we do to push this forward even more as an industry?

I completely sympathise with that. There’s still huge room for improvement. We need to speak louder about this, involve different stakeholders, and understand the various pain points along the way.

eBookings are a key component of moving forward, but they’re not the end solution. WebCargo also has a marketplace and rate management system that caters to diverse players. Last year in September, we launched the Freightos Air Index, which monitors pricing on a weekly level.

What are your predictions for the future?

In the next three years, I would like to see a huge acceleration in digitalisation. I want to see even more airlines, stakeholders, and government entities participating.

Soon we’ll have a digital industry and, as I said earlier, this won’t happen through replacing manpower, but allowing manpower to add more value. Digitisation isn’t a risk if a business is adding value. If we concentrate on that worth, we’ll all see that digitisation is an enabler and accelerator for us to achieve our goals.

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