What a great day!
If there was a common thread running through today’s four in-depth sessions, it would have to be “Change,” and the stage for that theme to play out on was nicely set by Asrat Begashaw, Managing Director of Ethiopian Airlines Cargo, as he detailed the rise of his country and his carrier through hard times to the present.
This segued nicely into the first round-table discussion on the current state of the airline industry, during which the panelists focused on the changes required to upgrade the value proposition offered by our industry — particularly the need to complete the e-freight revolution. We will provide more detailed coverage of this, and the other sessions, in the November issue of Cargo Facts, but there was general agreement among the four panel members that although there were still hurdles ahead, the stakeholders in the airfreight industry (shippers, forwarders, carriers, governments, handlers, and airports), are finally working together, rather than in opposition to each other.
Next came what was for me the highlight of the day, a session devoted to the impact of the emerging markets on the air freight scene. Ram Menen, former head of cargo at Emiriates came out of retirement to share his knowledge of the subject, but while he may be the best-known member of the panel, those that shared the stage with him offered a depth of experience and insight that was truly impressive.
We broke for lunch after the discussion of emerging markets, and were fortunate to hear Tom Crabtree give us some of the background on Boeing’s World Air Cargo Forecast.
The afternoon began with a discussion of the fleet-planning strategies of three very interesting carriers, all of whom are in the process of making big changes in their fleets, capped by a presentation by Bombardier’s Frank Baistrocchi detailing not just the introduction of the new CSeries, but also offering insight into the freighter conversion potential for the company’s CRJ200 and Q-400 lines.
The final session saw Guggenheim Aviation Partners CEO Steve Rimmer lead a discussion of the changes in the aircraft finance landscape, during which the panelists were pretty much unanimous in their view that following the drying up of finance following the financial crisis, opportunities now abound.
To cap the day we adjourned to the Museum of Flight for a cocktail reception and buffet. If you’ve never visited the Museum of Flight, maybe that simple statement doesn’t mean much, but for an aviation geek, it’s pretty close to heaven.