The ECS Group continues to win new airline contracts, open more offices and is now heavily focusing on South East Asia.
The general sales agent’s (GSA) chief operating officer, Adrian Thominet tells Air Cargo Week the marketplace is generally good for ECS, despite some markets being flat, but it is not complaining.
He explains: “In terms of network we are enlarging with new countries, contracts and offices. In 2016, it will be the same sort of dynamic as last year. We completed some developments in South America in December last year in Brazil where we opened new offices.
“In the early part of the year we are very focused on Asia and especially South East Asia and Indo-China, with a complete new network as well with nine new countries covered in Asia (such as Indonesia, Vietnam and others).”
Thominet says the GSA business model is completely different in Asia compared to what it is like in Europe and the USA, and the way ECS works is totally different.
“There are a lot of opportunities (in Asia) with low-cost carriers, but they want a total cargo management contract. They want the GSA to take over the entire activity such as the handling, the responsibility of the claims, everything, and it is totally different.
“But we like this concept, of having a regional office to manage it entirely as it involves more commitment,” Thominet says.
As for new contracts he tells ACW: “This week we signed a new contract in Mumbai, India with Thai Airways (pictured). We are quite strong in India as we have 14 offices there, but this is a new step in development for us, but it is very good for us.” He adds ECS will imminently reveal two more big airline GSA contracts, which will be revealed in the near future.
Thominet says while airlines are expecting to grow revenues, they cannot necessarily increase their capacity, which is something only the Middle East carriers such as Qatar Airways and Emirates are doing, which provides challenges for ECS. “The rest of the airlines are not increasing their capacity, but have a need to increase revenue so you have to work on the cost savings for them such as for the trucking, the handling and also optimising the services.
“This involves us being more innovative, proactive and we must provide them new services and new segments such as in e-commerce and pharma. We as a GSA are providing new services because some have a middle-sized structures and cannot do it themselves.”
Digitisation and e-tools he explains is a “big new parameter” for ECS this year, as many carriers do not have the tools or experience and expect the GSA to have them such as the electronic air waybill, e-booking and e-technologies, which are all crucial for its partners so they can expand their business.
Thominet says: “It is one of the problems of the industry. We have a need to help partners who are not as rich as the likes of Qatar Airways, Emirates or WFS, and need to help them compete to have the technologies.
“This is where it is interesting for as we will not bring anything to a Qatar for example, as they have their new technology and own tools. Where it is exciting for us is the smaller sized carriers who we can help to grow.”
At the International Air Transport Association’s World Cargo Symposium in Berlin, he explains ECS had some meetings with Aeromexico, a smaller sized carrier in comparison to say the big Middle Eastern airlines, but needs new tools, products and technology and e-commerce development and pharma opportunities.
He explains this is where ECS can bring in the value and is where its focus lies, on making relationships stronger with carriers of this size and in a similar market position and resources.
Thominet also feels airlines expect more commitments from the GSA in many levels in service and also on the financial side. “They expect we are sharing the financial risk they want us to take some financial commitment to guarantee the revenue for them. It is a risk for us, but it has also proved that we are a reliable partner and one, which is ready to take risk and invest such as in new routes which we are launching with them,” he says.
Thominet says ECS has entered a new segment working with Royal Maroc (pictured) and has been implementing some flights for them in Africa, which it is financially supporting, thereby enlarging the carrier’s network through their financial commitment.
He explains: “It is a win-win situation, but it is also new approach as we are no longer just a reseller of capacity. But what we are trying to do, our strategy – is to focus on keeping the local management and branding, but not rebranding. We try to make these local heroes in one group or one brand.”
As for the Global GSA Group taking over the operations of Maastricht Aachen Airport in the Netherlands, Thominet says he is still trying to figure it out and what the best strategy is, but it is clearly not a move ECS plans on making.
He observes: “I think it is complicated – as one you are involved in one industry and if you play in other fields like this, it has complexities, as you need to keep your neutrality as a GSA, as we are dealing with mainly airlines.
“I think if you are involved in another industry you lose some neutrality and it is a complexity. On the other side it is interesting that the GSA can provide additional services and solutions.”