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Back from an exhibition. World Routes, this time, in Berlin. A lonely place for a cargo man, as one delegate said sadly.
For the second time, Routes had included cargo in its grand design, and apparently the cargo session, attended by the usual suspects including Des V and Ram M, was lively, if not so well attended. But then again, they had scheduled cargo for a Sunday, over a bank holiday weekend in Germany. Not for the first time, cargo was relegated to the sidelines.

That was also apparent among the exhibitors, the airports. Only a handful even mentioned cargo in their promotional material. Fewer still sent a cargo representative. Why? Well, because most airports don’t have one.
This is a pet peeve of many in the airport business. One Scandinavian airport man bemoaned the absolute lack of management focus, investment and interest in its cargo business. Others point to ACI, wondering why it barely acknowledges that freight does indeed pass through airports. (The Loadstar was hoping to put this question to ACI, but unfortunately the interviewee got stuck in a lift and the date was called off). ACI North America took freight seriously, but this hasn’t been replicated by other branches. Warehouses, equipment – in fact most cargo kit  – is old, out of the way, pushed aside by airports in favour of passengers. It’s not too surprising. The passenger business pays more. 
But it also seems to work both ways. While airports forget cargo, the cargo industry doesn’t focus too hard on the airports either. Airports aren’t well represented among all the acronyms currently hoping to improve efficiencies in the supply chain. Is that because ACI isn’t interested? Or because the cargo industry isn’t interested? How can this flame, which surely could help air cargo in its dream to become more efficient and better noticed, be ignited? Airports, after all, do play an essential role in the air freight business.
Of course, there are some airports that ensure they are not ignored; Incheon, Frankfurt, Schiphol, Hong Kong come to mind. 
But these names seem to be triggering a little resentment. “Schiphol? I am sick of Schiphol, with its SmartGate and e-Link and e-freight,” said one European airport rival. “Arrogant”, suggested another. Another was more good-humoured, laughing: “Yeah, Schiphol, always stealing our ideas!”
There is certainly some jealousy. But there is a case to be made for stealing some ideas  – or at least attitude – from them. They take the initiative. They get things done. They think hard about how to improve their cargo business. They don’t wait for ACI, or the industry, or the airlines to do it for them. No movement on e-freight? They organised seminars and started to roll it out. Security and Customs slowing down the process? They introduced SmartGate.

Admittedly, the Netherlands as a whole has its eye firmly on the cargo prize, and freight is a well-regarded and supported business. Which other government would offer money, especially in these darkened financial days, to promote e-freight?
But while that does make it hard for close rivals, there is no point sitting around watching them, moaning that it’s not fair. Why not take their ideas, and see if they will work elsewhere? What Schiphol, and the Netherlands as a whole are doing is trying to increase efficiencies across the business. By promoting themselves, they are promoting air freight globally while increasing standards, and that, surely, is useful to everyone. 

What is more, they are hearteningly sensible. Growth for growth’s sake is not in the plan. Sustainability is all. Seeing and grabbing opportunities is key. It is one of the few airports that the whole industry can learn something from, one of the few players in a handful of companies and individuals who can see beyond this year’s figures. So stop griping, start learning. There’s more to the Dutch than clogs.

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