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Special agents

The traditional role of cargo sales agents has undergone significant change over the years, with operators expecting much more than just to sell cargo space. Keith Mwanalushi talks to some of the key players involved
Now more than ever, airlines see outsourcing of cargo as a sensible option in terms of cost saving and incremental revenue – they are looking for partners that are reputable, financially sound, and can deliver in terms of revenue, network coverage and business intelligence, as Stephen Dawkins, Chief Executive Officer, Air Logistics Group suggests. 
Air Logistics Group (ALG) has been established for almost 25 years and Dawkins sees the company as the stalwart of the GSSA (General Sales and Service Agents) world. 
Dawkins feels GSSAs have naturally become outsourcing companies of choice for airlines, offering significant additional services such as data capture, business intelligence, trucking management, accounting, administration and digitalisation services.
“This demand will continue as airlines look to control their costs, maximise revenue, and focus on their core revenue, which is the passenger business,” he says. “Whether to improve cost efficiencies, increase market penetration, or overcome geopolitical limitations, there are still many compelling reasons for airlines to outsource cargo activities,” comments John Ward, Director – UK & Ireland at HAE Group. 
HAE is a multi-platform air cargo industry services provider and has 26 offices in 12 countries. “As a GSSA we offer our airlines far more than traditional cargo sales, which is what we believe the traditional GSA function to be,” states Ward. “We can increase the airline’s brand penetration by providing our airline partners with a local sales team, who are delivering their capacity and services, in their name and with their branding.”
Ward explains that through their own bespoke CRM, they provide full sales visit analysis and detailed feedback to partners via a medium of their choosing, including through system integration into their own CRM.
“The sales team is supported by our marketing team, who will generate direct and digital marketing to maximise the carrier’s brand. We also deliver targeted campaigns, which are focused on specific customers based on their location, their level of trading and quoting history.”
The obvious difference in the name GSSA is ‘Service’ compared to the traditional GSA. “As a GSSA it is no longer only a requirement to sell,” mentions Dawkins.“Airlines know exactly where their business is, what they demand is an organisation that can use business intelligence to locate the business and secure it on their behalf.”
Air Logistics Group has built a global network over the last 24 years – “We are well placed to offer all of these services, including the ultimate Total Cargo Management (TCM) solution, where an airline looks to maximise its revenue and focus on its core passenger business,” remarks Dawkins. 2019 is of specific importance to Dawkins and his team at ALG as they celebrate their 25th anniversary. The company was founded in the United Kingdom in 1994, and today the air logistics team consists of over 230 air freight sales professionals spanning 88 offices in 48 countries.
“We have entered our 25th year in the air cargo industry,” declares Dawkins. “Our business has come a long way over the last 24 years. Airlines have come and unfortunately gone, but we are still here, striving to provide the highest level of service to our airline and freight forwarding clients.” Dawkins expresses great pride in his management team, which has considerable airline and handling experience to drive the business – “These managers bring tremendous knowledge and experience, which compliments other younger members of the management team that have arrived from outside of the airline business. This combination is the driving force behind our success.”
Bringing air freight into the digital era is an ongoing process, and one that the cargo industry has been rather slow to embrace compared to other industries. “Digitalisation is already upon us,” Dawkins enforces. “Forwarders, because of the expectation from their shippers, demand information as quickly as possible, at a specific service level, and, of course, at the right price.” 
He adds that ALG continues to strive to give the forwarders a variety of solutions and choice of service, so that they can offer the same to their own clients. “Our role today, enabled by our global network, is to be a ‘portal’ for our airline partners available to all players in the forwarding community, and to provide accurate information and a high level of service quality to the forwarders based on the different services of the airlines that we represent.”
In terms of the GSSA solutions and the key markets served, Dawkins reveals that all regions saw year on year improvements in 2018, and that 13 years ago ALG took a strategic decision to invest in Asia.
“Asia is seeing huge development, especially on routes from Southeast Asia into Europe. There is so much more LCC competition for traditional airlines in Asia, and as there is more capacity in Asia, rates have come under pressure, so airlines are looking to maximise revenues within that additional capacity. LCCs in the intra-Asia market want to start generating cash immediately to support their strong growth, so outsourcing their cargo sales makes good commercial sense.”
The HAE Group has its global headquarters at East Midlands Airport in the UK, founded in 1997, and today has 26 offices in 12 countries. “Our activity is not restricted to these countries as we have regional solutions teams that deliver to their global customer base a combination of import, export and cross-trade services to and from most major cities,” states Ward.
Another big player in the GSSA business is the ECS Group, representing several companies in over 47 countries through its 147offices. In January this year ECS announced it had secured Thailand-based low cost medium  to long haul airline Nokscoot as its new GSSA client to represent their cargo business in TCM. 
"Air cargo is becoming more and more important in our operation, with greater contribution to our revenues, and the partnership with ECS will enhance our freight business,” said NokScoot CEO Yodchai Sudhidhanakul. With a very ambitious expansion plan over the period of the three-year TCM contract awarded to ECS Group, NokScoot is expected to generate more than 40,000 tonnes of cargo per year, and thus significantly increase its income. >>

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