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Hughes focuses on full plate of initiatives

By John W. McCurry on June 12, 2014
tagged iata, glyn hughes

The International Air Transport Association’s newly minted head of cargo, Glyn Hughes, plans to focus on the many initiatives set underway by his now retired predecessor Des Vertannes. This includes an overflowing plate of issues that include the e-air waybill agenda, safety, security and the modernization of agency programs. Hughes joined IATA in 1991 and has served in a variety of roles, most recently as head of cargo distribution.

“I had the privilege of working closely with Des for the past four years, and I want to continue the path he has put us on,” Hughes says. “We know we can’t do it alone. The strongest message Des gave is the need to collaborate, and we will continue to collaborate. Solutions by the industry, for the industry have much greater impact and have the opportunity to create the changes we are looking for.”

Hughes says he is confident the industry can achieve its latest goal of achieving 22 percent e-AWB penetration by the end of 2014. The rate was 14.3 percent through April. 

“We have missed the industry targets that have been set, and the whole industry underestimated the magnitude required to achieve this. It doesn’t just involve one component; it’s the entire supply chain. When you put in all the various supply chain components, it was a much more sizeable task than we initially anticipated.”

Hughes says the effort continues to be paced on the airline side by the “frontrunners,” which include Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Korean Airlines, Singapore Airlines and others. He says IAG Cargo has shown tremendous growth over the past few months.

“North America is starting to pick up, and Delta has led the way there,” Hughes says. “We are pleased with the growth across the board.”

Modal shift has been a catchphrase at recent industry gatherings with statistics showing a movement toward oceanfreight. Hughes prefers to use the term “modal choice” and says the airfreight industry has some work ahead of it to make sure that it retains its status as a premium product.

“There is a choice to be made about every box that comes out of a manufacturing plant as to how it gets to its destination. We need to be sure that air cargo is in there selling itself. The shift is a consequence of air cargo not selling itself as well as it should have been. We live in a competitive sector. Ocean has innovated at a greater rate than air cargo, you can argue. We have to increase our competitiveness so that when it comes to modal choice, air cargo gets a better shake.”

Another major item on Hughes’ agenda is the push for a 48-hour reduction in transit time, a notion put forth by Vertannes at the World Cargo Symposium in March. Hughes says the first stage toward reducing transit time is to develop a full analytical assessment of the situation, and find the potential pain points and where improvements can be done. He says there is no magical solution and it will require everyone working together and doing a combination of things differently.

“I have been incredibly pleased, as was Des, about the way the industry has embraced this notion,” Hughes says. “It is imperative if we wan to insert air cargo as a first-class product of freight movement around the world. The first thing we need to do is refresh the current assessment. Where are the potential blockages? We know that aircraft can’t fly any faster. Therefore, we at least know the acceleration of the process has to come on the ground. We need to figure out how we can pre-clear and pre-notify and get cargo into and out of the warehouse and onto the ramp.”

Industry workforce development presents another challenge. IATA’s FACE (Future Air Cargo Executives) program takes this issue on, but believes more work needs to be done.

“All industries want to attract the best talent available. We have to look at all the studies coming out about the next generation workforce. It will be motivated by different factors, including self-development and how they can make a wide impact on the community. If we get the proposition right, we can satisfy those demands. Almost every aspect of how we live is impacted positively by air cargo, so air cargo can provide them the impact they are looking for.”

Another area getting attention will be the development of IATA’s cargo team, including who will take over Hughes’ former role.