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The staff of Air Cargo Germany this morning met with new CEO Michael Schaecher, in what observers have called a surprisingly “bold, ambitious, open and communicative” approach.

In an email to staff sent earlier this week, Mr Schaecher, former air freight boss for DHL Global Forwarding, outlined the challenges for the carrier, its future strategy and his leadership style.

He began by pointing to the financial difficulties the carrier faces, noting that for the third year in a row, the airline achieved negative EBIT in respect of pre-tax profit, and that a widening gap between budget targets and results has likely led to an EBIT loss exceeding 25% of revenues for 2012, a situation, he said, which was “unhealthy and unsustainable”.

But he called the challenges “addressable” – through a combination of improved operational performance, cost optimisation and strategy.

The shareholders, Volga Dnepr Logistics and ACG Beteiligungsgesellschaft, which met yesterday to discuss the 2013 budget, are said to be keen to stem the losses through a renewed focus on the core of the business and better customer relations, while maintaining operational flexibility.

Mr Schaecher, who, as chairman and CEO of StarBroker spent some €60m annually on ACG capacity, told staff he prefers a “factual, process-based quality management approach” and suggested a light “six sigma approach” to help make improvements by first measuring activities.

Sources at the airline had been concerned that the company, with two CEOs and one managing director, could become top heavy, but it has now been announced that Michael Bock, who is said to be remaining as a shareholder, is leaving at the end of this month to work at Frankfurt-Hahn-based MRO provider, Haitec, as well as on other projects. Managing director, Thomas Homering, is thought to be staying in his post.

There had also been concern about Mr Schaecher’s management style. Industry sources report a tough and aggressive approach employed at DHL – no doubt attractive qualities for Volga Dnepr chief Alexei Isaikin who needs a fast turnaround to profitability – but Mr Schaecher appears to have allayed some of those fears among staff with his friendly stance.

One source told The Loadstar: “If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was a nice guy.” Another said he sounded “open and communicative. But can he change his stripes?”

No doubt ACG staff will discover that over the coming year.

However, in the same spirit he also appealed for help in learning airline operations.

“I have much to learn in the aviation field, in particular on the operational and legislative side, which I can only do by listening to all of you. I am a quick learner, but I need input from you all individually and I need you all to start again communicating more with each other, in particular cross functional. The OCC can only take learnings and improve by listening to pilots, ground ops and sales and so do the others… all of us should be outspoken on report improvement areas, only by knowing can we change.”

But he added that the carrier – while full of ‘can do’ people – needed to change its culture. “It has become obvious that communication needs to be improved, that we need to generate again a `WE` culture and move away from the ‘functional silo’ thinking that somehow has crept into the organization. Our DNA must be refocused around the customer, around safety and operational excellence, around the ‘US’ as a team.

“Let us start now an open and interactive dialogue and work together to 
make ACG a reputable and strong company in the all cargo carrier market.”