Forgetting their tiff, both IATA
and FIATA representatives sat together at the recent KL World Cargo
Symposium to display to the 1,000-odd delegates that it was time
to move on and meet the challenging times head on.
The spirit was amply captured by Glyn
Hughes, Director, Air Cargo Industry Management, IATA. In a specially
convened press meet (there were just a handful of us), Hughes fielded
questions about the IATA-FIATA tiff, the IATA’s ‘non-transparent’
moves, GACAG, and more.
When questioned about GACAG and why
the meetings were hush-hush affairs, Hughes said that there was
nothing of that sort.
“It is all about collaboration
and you are a partner,” he pointed out. “Selectively,”
he emphasized, “you (the media) are the voice of the industry.”
Not too long ago, there was a GACAG meeting and it was there that
Hughes raised the issue of communication with the press.
“We talked a lot about that.
Everybody in that room (in the GACAG meeting) felt it was absolutely
crucial. What they have asked us is
that, in the future, whenever we have a GACAG during an industry
event, the doors have to be opened up… we actually tried to
open the doors for the press at KL…” Unfortunately,
there were no time slots available. He promised that in future events,
communication with the media about GACAG would be on schedule.
On his part, Chris Goater, Manager,
Corporate Communications, IATA— who was incidentally, the
‘organizer’ for the press meet, if one may call it that—took
pains to point out that GACAG was a comparatively young body and
there would be more news as things got moving. It was also pointed
out that GACAG had no employees and no money. Everything that was
being done was entirely because of the initiatives of individual
associations. “Going forward, we would like to emphasize that
we are going ahead from a young group, how we engage with each other
to moving on to delivering and communicating. We are looking at
how we can structure that (communication) going forward,”
said Hughes. It would be a priority, promised Hughes.
One important point that Hughes underlined
was that this year the World Cargo Symposium had dropped the ‘IATA’
tag. It is not that the organizers wanted to name the symposium
the GACAG Symposium, but simply put across the view that “supply
chain success will be achieved by the industry, for the industry.”
Was it then hard to reach a consensus
between the different bodies?
“No, no and unfortunately, no!”
said Hughes. Actually, when somebody said that the symposium would
get these constituency groups in one room, there was indeed surprise—what
with the issues IATA had with FIATA. But as soon as the groups came
in for the first meeting, “everybody came in with exactly
the same approach: We have to make this work. It is not about individual
components in the supply chain. Each individual component in the
supply chain cannot exist without the other components in the chain.
When everyone walked into the room, everyone had the same view,”
Hughes mentioned. Nobody had to be convinced, he said.
The same sentiment was seen when the
GACAG team met with Commissioner Alan Bersin in Washington late
last year. And when he met the team, he and his 25-member team were
“speechless.” For the U.S. politician that Commissioner
Bersin is, it was a totally changed scenario. Instead of meeting
with ten IATA people to explain the airline position, or forwarders
or shippers keen to explain their viewpoints, he got a single view.
“When regulators hear a fragmented
grouping, in a way that is music to their ears for they know they
can do what they want,” but what Commissioner Bersin got was
a unified view. Each component of the supply chain could specify
exactly what the problem was and the “reception the GACAG
team got was overwhelming,” said Hughes. In turn, Commissioner
Bersin told his team that before any proposals were made to the
WCO, GACAG would have to be contacted for its views.
“That, for us, we did not need
any more confirmation (that we were doing the right thing).”
Discussing the IATA-FIATA relations,
Hughes said that there had been ups and downs with mutual respect
and understanding about each other’s positions.
“A couple of years ago, the
lowest point in the relationship occurred. Since that point, we
have continued to rebuild. We had Tony Tyler speak extremely positively
about the dialogue that he had with FIATA. He has had three meetings
with the President of FIATA (something which the last Director-General
had not done—ever). Tony Tyler made a commitment to them and
whenever he is in Brussels, he makes it a point to meet the FIATA
The areas of common interest between
the two organizations have been identified and both are working
towards these. “We both have an interest in modernizing the
cargo agency program...when the agency program was established,
the industry was a different one where the freight forwarder was
very much an agent of the airline and the relationship was one where
‘I am the carrier and these are the terms and conditions of
the goods to be moved.’ That has changed. The airlines realize
that their relationship with the freight forwarder is much more
as business partners and therefore the program that we have in place
from the IATA perspective needs to be modernized. It will have to
recognize that a new relationship exists,” said Hughes.
There is also commonality on the airway
bill, which is the very first layer of the wider e-freight objective.
It will be a program that will bring benefits to the forwarder and
the airline. “We did work with FIATA to establish agreements
and we continue to work with them, which will bring more efficiency
in the process.”
Will all this bring in a new world
order in air cargo? Only time will tell. However, one thing is certain:
we will get to hear more about GACAG and its working—never
mind the fact that 83 percent of the 300-odd delegates attending
one of the interactive sessions, “Taking charge of change,”
which over the last year monitored the progress on the agreed priorities
by IATA and the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG) did
not know about GACAG.