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My thanks to Des Vertannes, for his closing speech at IATA, when he answered the question raised by The Loadstar’s blog: “Can Gacag fix all the industry’s ills?”
And his answer? “I don’t think we can boast that Gacag will fix it all. Let’s focus on what we can cure, and what we need to cure first. We need the skills to deliver expectations, and to look at the issues we have and the timescale we have.”
He is right: there is a heavy weight of expectation on IATA, Gacag, and on Des’s shoulders in particular. Can he fix the industry? Can Gacag – which today announced its intention to focus first on security and e-commerce – do the job everyone hopes it can?
And will, then, the pathetic margins of 1.4% expected to be made by the industry this year be extended? Can air cargo eat into the 98% share of the freight transport market taken by other modes – inch up to 2.5% perhaps?
The problem for the muttering bystanders is that it’s not all up to Des. Responsibility can’t lie with him alone. Or even with Gacag (which, incidentally, is up and running from today). One of the worries, voiced by Mick Fountain of OHL, was that despite IATA’s admirable list of goals, there were no timings for completion, no names chalked against the responsibilities. Or, as he rather beautifully put it: “We need to boil it down to whose throats we can choke for non-delivery.”
In many ways it’s now up to everyone who wants the industry, and their business, to do better. Up to everyone who wants to change those year-after-year stats showing no improvement. As Ted B commented on this blog: “Don’t people understand that IATA is the airlines themselves? The association, at least in principle, is supposed to represent and reflect its membership. That it is otherwise, is what those who expect it to deliver ought to focus on and affect.”
So yes, it is time to affect change, to stand up and be counted. There’s growth in the market, the deepest days of the recession are over, and companies can now start to look outwards – at collaborating across the supply chain to make “the pie” bigger for everyone. Not just that, but I seem to remember an offer of money for companies who could spare their best person to help IATA see through its ambitions.
IATA has set the industry some strong targets for this year, and Istanbul showed that there was some enthusiasm for meeting them. To join Gacag, the handlers need to form an industry-wide association; IATA’s priorities are to pursue “harmonised and mutually recognised secure freight, promote e-commerce adoption, raise the industry’s profile and introduce industry quality standards”. And each track set itself its own agenda. (If you would like to know what they are, feel free to email me and I’ll send them out.)
But the work has to start now. It’s time to forget IATA’s past failures, bury the hatchet, and support its efforts.
It’s time to walk the walk and stop the talk, talk, talk.
For those who missed the Closing Plenary, you might like to know the IATA fact sheet:
3,937 cups of coffee
10,000kg of food
1 cat falling through the ceiling in the eAWB session
Let’s see what that all amounts to in terms of industry change…