Peter Gerber talks paperless processes, pharma, Amazon and freighters

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Lufthansa Cargo CEO and chairman, Peter Gerber
Lufthansa Cargo CEO and chairman, Peter Gerber

Paperless processes must become a reality, pharmaceuticals will be a key pillar in the future of airfreight, freighters will remain essential and Amazon must be dissatisfied if it is moving into airfreight, are just some of the views express by Lufthansa Cargo chief executive officer and chairman, Peter Gerber.

He was speaking on Tuesday in the International Air Transport Association’s World Cargo Symposium plenary session, ‘A Day in the Life of…”, where he was interviewed by Air Cargo News editor, Roger Hailey, talking about a number of issues facing the industry.

Talking about the drive to go paperless, Gerber told delegates: “I do believe it has to become reality, we can talk about how long it will take until it is reality but it will become reality sooner rather than later.”

He says going paperless is heavily dependent on forwarders, some of whom are very helpful and others are resisting the push.

Though Gerber admits he can only speculate on Amazon’s motives for moving into the freighter market, he believes the company must be dissatisfied with the service it is receiving to make such a move.

“There clearly are problems and they are dissatisfied, can they do it better? [If Amazon offered to do business with Lufthansa Cargo] We would talk to them about what we could offer, it is difficult to predict if others will follow,” he explains.

Pharmaceuticals will remain a key pillar of airfreight, as it requires speed, but with a lot of carriers investing, there is a lot of competition. Some cheaper pharmaceuticals may see a modal shift but most will stick to airfreight, Gerber feels: “I think it will be a key pillar for airfreight, to be honest there is not much alternative but now a lot of players provide good service.”

Gerber also restated Lufthansa Cargo’s commitment to freighter aircraft, while other European carriers have either retired them entirely or are cutting back.

He says some routes cannot be served by passenger aircraft with bellyhold capacity only, and must be supplemented by freighters. “Demand is not slowing, we will need the same number of freighters in five to 10 years time … we don’t see bellyhold taking over, we will still need freighters.”

With low oil prices, Gerber says older aircraft such as Boeing MD-11 Freighters still make economic sense. “At the moment, fuel prices are so low that there is no point getting new aircraft on order if you have good ones to operate, the MD-11F is still comparatively young.

“Fuel prices are not the biggest concern and we can keep flying them for longer. Yields are important, if fuel prices went up to $130 per barrel then that would be a good time to get rid of them.”