reason I love what I do is the people I connect with. Moving from what's
familiar to places yet to be discovered—that’s what
I appreciate about being in the airline business.
“The unique quality United Cargo brings
to this industry is our commitment to making sure everyone does well in
their business—our airline and our customers.”
When we met with United Airlines’
France Cargo Sales Manager Laurent Bernet in a small, elegant hotel garden
in Place Pigalle Paris recently, we discovered a seasoned veteran of the
air cargo business. He’s worked both sides of the Atlantic; first
at Fritz, where he did an internship in 1992, and next at United Cargo,
where he has been comfortably situated for the past twenty-four years.
It turns out that during his formative years
in air cargo Laurent served as a Cargo Account Executive at United’s
critical major global hub in Chicago, Illinois.
“I wanted to work for the airlines.
In 1994, I had a meeting scheduled with the United Cargo Manager in CDG,
but he had to cancel that appointment due to a strike.
“So I came to the U.S. and applied
for a job with United’s passenger service team.
“I took a test to prove I was fluent
in French (smiles all around) and was accepted at an hourly rate of $7.25
when I joined the ‘Friendly Skies’ in December 1994.
“The rest, as they say, is history.”
Theme of Life & Work
“Keep it simple” was a recurring
theme as Laurent revealed his deep-seated love for the logistics industry.
“I love cargo, because this business
is an ever-challenging game.
“The core of what we sell is customer
service. I realize this isn’t rocket science, but still, you always
have to be your best,” Laurent says. “The fundamentals are
having respect for and listening to your customer.
“A good portion of our business out
of Paris is express, so consistent quality is essential. Our Sales Team
needs to be respectful but also aggressive.”
Chatting with Laurent generates a mood as
cozy and relaxed as a cardigan sweater. As
someone who from all outward signs enjoys what he does, it’s natural
that he would extend himself to serve others.
We learn that Mr. Bernet is current President
of SYCAFF, a most respected and vital organization of air cargo transportation
leadership professionals in France.
SYCAFF includes 37 members and associate
“SYCAFF is an organization that meets
monthly, where service
providers work together to build cooperation and knowledge by exchanging
technical and operational experiences on a variety of airline topics.
“SYCAFF’s agenda is to develop
concrete solutions to multiple issues impacting our business. We bring
all the perspectives and ideas together from the airlines side and strive
to ensure that whatever measures we take benefit all users of the freight
Of course, the old adage of “all work
and no play” at least gets a nod from the SYCAFF gentry, as the
group also participates in several social events throughout the year.
Crucially, for the past 20 years, SYCAFF
has been in the forefront defending the interests of the air cargo sector
with public authorities.
“In addition to strategic, economic,
and regulatory monitoring, we also work to develop strategic partnerships
whose overall aim is improving the quality of service,” Mr. Bernet
Life in Paris
Laurent Bernet lives in Paris with his wife,
Annare and two daughters, Fiona and Emily.
Asked what his priorities in life are, Laurent
is quite clear and characteristically French:
“Love, family, good food, travel and
job satisfaction,” he smiles.
While he gets great pleasure from an evening
stroll in the small village where he lives, or excitement from a night
with friends in the “City of Light,” he also relishes opportunities
for more far-flung travel.
“Most recently we visited Cuba, and
it was a unique and wonderful experience,” Laurent confided.
He also has warm memories of his life in
otherwise windy and (at times) brusque Chicago.
“It’s a great city where we
really got into living in America.
“We have wonderful memories, from
when our daughters were born, to when Annare ran in the Chicago Marathon,
to many other people and places that are special to us.”
A favorite place to be—besides Paris,
of course—is Buenos Aires.
“Buenos Aires is a city of constant
discovery and adventure, no matter how many times I visit,” Laurent
revealed, adding: “The people, history and hospitality in Buenos
Aires are all fantastic.”
Laurent admits his love for life extends
to culinary delights such as sushi and red meat dishes like the famous
Advice to The Next Generation
Laurent Bernet’s outwardly spirited
approach is genuine, coming from deep within.
We learn that Laurent continues to battle
cancer and, in addition, he gets a portion of his drive to embrace life
fully from having survived a harrowing automobile accident in 1998.
So as Laurent gives advice to those seeking
a long and positive career in air cargo, everything comes full circle:
“Learn from other sources,”
“Take the best, but remember to separate
the wheat from the chaff.
“Be bold but humble, but in the right
circumstances don’t be afraid to be insistent, even arrogant.
“In life, be sure you’re right,
and then go ahead.
“Never forget that people make all
“Keep your word, and never promise
what you can’t deliver.
“I take great pride in the United
Cargo product. Nobody does it better than us, so I’m thankful I
have a part in providing it and I’m never far away from my cell
phone or email.
“But sometimes you have to say no,
and that is difficult.
“Whether you say no or yes, in the
end the secret is trust,” Laurent Bernet said.