Finnair’s Fredrik Wildtgrube sees a bright digital future ahead for cargo

Last month, Finnair Cargo announced a new partnership to market its belly capacity on the increasingly popular cargo management app, cargo.one, which is already used by industry giants like Dachser and Lufthansa Cargo. Finnair has been pushing for new technology to streamline the cargo process for years, but the carrier is hardly a newcomer to the scene. In fact, it’s one of the oldest carriers ever to carry a mail bag in an aircraft belly.
In between sessions at IATA’s 13th World Cargo Symposium in Singapore, Air Cargo World sat down with Finnair Cargo’s head of global sales, Fredrik Wildtgrube (pictured), to chat about hot topics of the event, like the safe transport of cold-chain products – of which it is a prominent carrier – and the glacially slow progress of digitalization in the air cargo industry. With the cargo.one partnership, the pace may start to quicken.

Q: How important is belly cargo to Finnair’s business model?
Fredrik Wildtgrube:
Cargo was onboard our first flight. We are one of the oldest still-operating airlines around. The first flight was actually a mail flight. Cargo has always been a very significant role in the company and I think that we demonstrate a very integral way of doing things. Cargo is being taken very seriously. We got the opportunity to build the most modern air cargo terminal [The COOL Nordic Cargo Hub at Helinski Airport] in Europe. What’s really cool about it is that it was built for us. And that’s not something you see every day, especially for a belly air cargo airline.

Q: What are Finnair’s most popular cargo routes?
FW:
The Asia connection in general is something that is sought after. We operate to the main destinations and we have some smaller destinations as well. I would say the usual suspects, the main destinations in China and also in Japan. We’ve been operating there a long time and we’re very happy with our network at this point.

Q: What are your most popular commodities going to Asian markets?
FW:
We carry quite a lot of different commodities, but in exports out of Europe, there are a lot of perishables involved – mainly seafood – moving to our Asian destinations. We actually launched a video about that. The world is changing. Customer demands are changing. So, all the time, we’re trying to think of ways to make our supply chain more reliable.

Q: How about the other direction (Asia to Europe)?
FW:
It’s more a general cargo commodity that’s coming back. At the same time, we’re interested in opening conversations to variety of opportunities – we’re very curious. We see, of course, e-commerce is growing in the market, which is interesting. I think it’s posing a new challenge to the industry. We were the first airline in the world to get the CEIV-Pharmaceutical certificate, but we’re interested in exploring loads of different opportunities to add customers to utilize our network.

Q: What are the major obstacles to digitalization in airfreight?
FW:
I think that the accountability of getting everything documented from origin is something that you need – especially from our perspective. We are relying on the data that comes from upstream, and with that data, we need to know exactly what the customer is looking for from us … and we would like to do everything possible to protect the integrity of the product, and if you don’t have good data from upstream, this becomes pretty hard. We believe, for us, it becomes a moving target, and air cargo is about speed, so having unclear instructions when it needs to happen, it becomes – we’re slowing the one true big value that our industry possesses, and that’s something we’ve all heard at the [WCS] conference… The source is there; we just need to translate it. We believe the digital way of doing things is actually allowing us to help bring speed into the industry, but still the original data needs to be good.

Q: When a temperature-sensitive shipment is compromised, how does Finnair manage with the situation?
FW:
If there would be an exposure to an unlucky event, you’d want to absolutely comply to everything possible to identify where the problem was, what it was caused by, what are the corrective actions, and how do we prevent that in the future. Because again, going back to the product integrity, we understand that this pharmaceutical shipment, these medicines that go into either a human being or an animal – there are no short cuts, there are absolutely no short cuts for that, and that’s the type of integrity that we want to endorse. We want to work very closely together with all of our stakeholders in the community so that we have absolutely as good and reliable a supply chain as possible within air cargo.

Q: How is the partnership with cargo.one moving along?
FW:
We are still in the testing phase and we are moving things forward. One thing we really liked about cargo.one was the dynamic team. Certainly, it is really the energy in the people. We saw the passion to really change something, and they already have a vision of how that could look. They convinced us that they’d done their homework; they’d done the challenging part. But it’s not only for the purpose of challenge to do something… having the ambition, that’s something that absolutely got us convinced.

This month, you can see Wildtgrube speak in person about cross-border specialty cargo at Cargo Facts Asia 2019, to be held April 15-17 in Shanghai, presented by our esister publication, Cargo Facts. For registration information, please visit cargofactsasia.com.

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