Adrien Thominet’s main complaint about the pandemic is that he’s misses the direct contact with his teams and with customers. It is people who keep the machines of the industry moving, and they must once again take centre stage for a sustainable upswing to be realistic after the crisis, he says. The CEO of the global GSA discussed the upheaval with ITJ editor Andreas Haug.
How did the ECS Group manage overall in 2020, Mr Thominet?
For all of us last year was very special, bringing all those changes in our daily operations with it. Internally, we managed to react quickly to the new circumstances, because all the tools – safety measures, materials, systems – were already in place, and because we’re geared to adapting flexibly to any situation.
We were thus in a position to adapt our services quickly to our customers’ new requirements, and to carry out tailor-made projects from A to Z for them, such as charters or passenger / cargo conversions (P2F).
As the head of a global firm, can you tell us where business was most resilient?
The situation varied greatly from country to country. Even before the pandemic we already dealt with each case on its own merits, but Covid-19 greatly intensified this phenomenon. On top of that, the market is particularly volatile, so we had to react even faster and more flexibly in order to maximise our yields. Looking at the concrete figures, Europe, North America, China, India and South Asia all performed better overall.
What distinguishes the ECS Group from its competitors?
Our modular service portfolio is very versatile, which allows airlines to entrust us with all, or just a part of, their cargo business, depending on their requirements. Apart from this we also go beyond the traditional solutions that a GSSA usually provides, and also offer our customers the option of outsourcing e-mail, data entry and e-commerce activities to us.
On top of this we have a rather dynamic network. All in all, we enable our clients to optimise their costs, maximise their revenues and maybe even develop new activities, such as P2F or charters.
One of your latest contracts binds the ECS Group to Qatar Airways Cargo.
This is a return to the UAE market for Qatar Airways Cargo, which we represent in the seven emirates. We were appointed in February and have already observed great opportunities in the market since then.
CMA CGM’s new venture with a cargo airline is causing quite a stir in the logistics world. Why do you think the ECS Group was chosen for this project?
We’re proud to have been appointed as the exclusive GSA of CMA CGM Air Cargo, the new division established by the major ocean shipping line. We see this as recognition of our expertise. What tipped the scales in our favour is our detailed knowledge of the market, our know-how in the airfreight segment, our global network and our ability to offer precise solutions, especially thanks to our business intelligence tools.
CMA CGM has 750 offices in 160 countries, and our network consists of 160 offices worldwide – so with a combined and complementary approach there’ll be many opportunities open to us in this new task. Our first step was to set up our own teams in Europe and the USA – the first flights, after all, connect the Belgian airport of Liège with Chicago six times a week. These teams market the 60 t of capacity available on every Airbus A330-200F flight.
What do you think of the CMA CGM Group’s entry into the airline segment?
The group is continuing to develop very well by pursuing a vertical integration strategy in the logistics field. For forwarders this means more capacity in a very dynamic segment – and that’s excellent news for the industry.
Is there any more good news like this?
It can’t be ruled out. The airfreight industry is attractive and has come centre stage again in the pandemic.
What else do you expect for 2021?
I think the uncertain development of (passenger) aviation activities will ensure that volatility will remain high. Adaptability remains an essential element of survival, first of all, and to then take off again after the crisis. This is where we can offer airlines our outsourcing options and know-how for key commodities, including pharmaceuticals handling. We have to remain close to our customers.