The air cargo market has got many peculiar features. It will surprise by numerous things from relationships with agents to the unexpected behavior of the airlines, which is quite often. Nevertheless, TELS has been developing successfully in this market demonstrating unique qualities at times and taking a leading part in solving numerous issues.
Olga Novikova, Head of the Air Transportation Department, and Natalia Solushko, Deputy Head of the Department, share interesting facts about the air cargo market.
Facts about working with agents
Natalia Solushko: One of the main features of the air cargo market is that work with regional agents goes without formal contracts. Such practice is worldwide. The contract is actually a discussion by e-mail. Therefore, huge efforts are required to find responsible agents and check their reliability.
At the same time, the agents are also very cautious about new proposals for cooperation. Collaboration is not likely to start without personal recommendation. Relationships take years to be built, so partner’s trust is priceless.
Olga Novikova: Large networks [global logistics groups of companies - ed. comments] agree to sign such contracts. But in real life, when the problem arises, all the issues are settled by mutual agreements due to the existing loyal partnerships: we value relations with them, they value relations with us, so we try to find a mutual solution.
So far, we have developed a list of around 70 permanent agents in all directions. And each region has its own peculiar features in partnership relations. Cultural differences between the nations are especially noticeable and must be taken into consideration, or else you risk losing your partner.
Facts about working with customers
N.S: Sometimes we work around the clock. Asia works from night to morning. By noon, when Asia falls asleep, Europe becomes more active. America wakes up in the evening and works until the middle of the night. Then Asia wakes up again. So it is common for us to work at night. Not to say that some customers call us at night.
O.N.: Once a Customer added us to their global conference discussing supply issues at various hierarchical levels from warehouse workers to top managers. So we participated in resolving the issues, gave advice.
N.S.: Our expertise in air transportation as well as the understanding of other markets captures Customers’ attention. We can answer questions about the delivery options by any type of transport. If we don’t know anything, we promise to learn more on the matter and inform the Customers.
One of our distinguishing features, which is also our competitive advantage, is our integrity combined with expert advice. It is quite difficult to offer competitive freight rates in the air cargo market as everyone works with the same airlines. Therefore, we work in such a way as to give thorough and detailed advice to our Customers on possible risks, terms and delivery schemes, and choose the best option together with the Customer.
Sometimes we recommend our Customers to change the market. For example, it is very expensive to deliver from Malaysia – the same spare parts can be transported from Taiwan on better terms. We already have a grateful Customer who signed contracts with Taiwanese manufacturers. The price of spare parts is only a little cheaper, but the shipping cost savings, especially for large tonnage, are significant.
We were the first to…
N.S.: We were the first to transport accumulator batteries from China (one Russian magazine even wrote about this). We found the only agent in Hong Kong at that time who was the general representative of the only airline taking such cargo on board. Now many companies transport the batteries, but then we expanded our client portfolio greatly and made a good name with the help of them.
Probably, we were the first to start transporting high-precision medical equipment from China on a regular basis. Some devices are so fragile that they can be inclined only at certain angles. Once inclined too much, the device is broken, and the sensors will detect it. After the first successful transportation (which, by the way, was very urgent, in December), companies from the same sector who had learnt about us started working with us. They placed transportation orders without even asking about the rates - the main priority was to deliver the cargo safely on time. We are now actively working with the medical sector - we carry cargo for a manufacturer of laboratory materials.
How the air transportation market and the work of TELS have changed
O.N.: We used to carry cargo by regular flights of major airlines. But the coronavirus ruined the game. Little-known companies entered the market and got hold of the situation - they started offering routes and favorable rates. Many passenger boards were re-equipped either by removing the seats, or by attaching boxed cargo to the seats without removing them.
We also discovered new opportunities in the market crisis and decided to use them. So we reoriented more to charter flights. And we did it quite quickly: we rebuilt the schemes, stabilized the rates and adapted our Customers to them.
Each transportation is an individual case. Given that we had mainly worked by “airport-to-airport” delivery scheme, we almost do not have such transportations now. The customers do not only request air transportation, but they also ask for a range of services, which we provide to them. And we do it both in the country of origin (repackaging, labelling, etc.) and in the destination country (customs clearance, delivery to the warehouse, etc.).
The secret of success
O.N.: We do not rest on our laurels - we are developing together with our Customers as we are a highly customer-oriented company offering unobtrusive services tailored to Customer’s needs.
“Nothing is impossible” reflects our attitude, and we constantly verify our capabilities by finding solutions in any situation. This constantly enlarges our great collection of interesting cases.
Real-life case. We had transported premium cheeses from Italy to Russia before the introduction of sanctions. We did it regularly according to the scheme – on Thursday we collected cheese, on Friday we arranged the documents and shipped it, on Saturday the Customer received it and on Sunday the cheese was already at expensive restaurants. But someday the cheese did not arrive - it was missing on board. We sent the information to all the agents telling “Guys, our cheese flew away somewhere in the wrong place”. In half a day, the cheese was found in China - it had been loaded to the wrong plane. Our agent redirected the cheese to Moscow at his own expense (“we will settle it later”). The delay was for one day.
We will not promise and give guarantees if we cannot control the situation directly, at the same time we will always point to all the risks and offer an alternative solution. We never leave Customers alone with their problems: even if the cargo is already beyond our responsibility, we will help in all the possible ways.