Farewell blog by Marcel de Nooijer

As my final days draw to a close as Executive Vice President of Air France-KLM Cargo after seven years in the role before I start as Chief Executive Officer at Transavia, I am very proud of our team’s many achievements during that time.

The biggest one which applies to KLM and Martinair, is the turnaround we have achieved from a loss-making proposition in 2014 to a very positive contributing business within the Group. This feels very rewarding, for both me and the team.

Another success is that we have done a lot in terms of infrastructure as we moved to a new passenger terminal at Schiphol which had its challenges. We had to give up 1/3 of our space and we changed all kinds of processes and invested in a highly sophisticated sorter. We are now fully autonomous running a one-stop-shop for pharmaceuticals, express and mail at Schiphol. This was all done without closing the facility. This was a major change with our processes, and we did that while the business continued.

Thirdly, the digital transformation we have carried out at the same time as we reduced our main deck capacity. We have invested heavily in digitisation by replacing old legacy systems and now, one quarter of the cargo business comes via our online MyCargo platform.

Challenges

There have been some big challenges during my tenure. Firstly, the capacity constraints at Schiphol. It has had a big impact on full freighters and that remains a big challenge.

This has put pressure on Schiphol, and we have lost some ground on other hubs in terms of cargo volumes.

Another challenge is the increasing rules and regulations in respect of compliance around the globe and the lack of standardisation, which makes it complicated for air cargo carriers.

The third main challenge has been the volatility of the global economy. 2017 and 2018 were very successful years but 2019 has been challenging with the cooling of global trade and the worldwide economic slowdown. At KLM and Martinair we have changed our unit cost and are better placed to withstand any difficulties.

Cooperation

To overcome the most challenges, I believe cooperation is key to the continued future success of Schiphol as a smart cargo hub. Cargo has more capabilities in that sense than other industries and working together and coming up with more solutions leads to having a much better product to offer. It is something that is thriving in the industry.

Of course, there are challenges going forward, these can only be tackled through cooperation with all stakeholders in the supply chain working closely together to find smarter solutions.

Amsterdam has always played a significant role in airfreight in Europe and there is something precious at Schiphol. I hope that a strong spirit of cooperation continues so that we can safeguard our industry and ensure a sustainable future for Schiphol as a cargo hub.

Three tips for air cargo

Firstly, we need to keep fostering the air cargo community spirit at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We have shown we can work together. This is essential in the rapidly changing world we live in and we need to continue collaborating.

Secondly, we need to keep on increasing the investments in digitisation as it is so important for the future of our industry and must be done despite the financial challenges. It is essential to keep on doing the right thing for our customers of the future.

Last but not least, we have to work together more strongly on sustainability, as it will be the licence to operate in the future and to go forward, so the air cargo industry should build a strong sustainability story line.

We need to work closely in the industry and stakeholders should come together to find way to bring down CO2 emissions. We should do more and support each other and also clarify our role as to why we are here and justify it to the Dutch society.

It is a very sustainable industry as cargo flows for a reason. We make sure precious drugs arrive in places they need them and bring networks together globally.

ENDS