Transformation of Delta Cargo beginning to take shape

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Delta Air Lines Boeing 747

Delta Cargo is transforming its business and is focusing on operational reliability and customer service.

Speaking at air cargo europe in Munich last month, managing director for cargo revenue management, marketing and alliance, Kristin Colvile (pictured below) says it is “all go” as it evolves cargo processes and operations.

“We have been going through somewhat of a transformation, which is really focused on our two key priorities. One is operational reliability. It is a statement, which you hear from many airlines, but we are putting our money where our mouth is,” she explains.

Technology is key. Delta was the first carrier to install RFID readers on its network for passenger bags, and is now piloting that technology in air cargo.

Colvile says: “We are investing heavily in technology and in RFIDs. If you think about the experience on the passenger side of the business when you are travelling with your bag, which is all RFID-enabled and you get a notification and don’t have to do anything and it tells you when your bag is coming off and which carousel it is at – we are bringing that exact same functionality to cargo so customers will know exactly where their freight is at any point in time.

“We are testing it now in a couple of markets. It is something we will begin rolling out in the rest of 2017 and into 2018. For us, that is transformational in terms of operational reliability.”

Delta is also developing a new cargo control centre to boost operations, which Colvile says will be state-of-the-art and similar to what it has at its operations customer centre, enabling it to track shipments anywhere and at any time.

As for customer service, she explains: “It is really about looking at all our infrastructure, processes and our people and are we truly filtering it through to the customer experience.

“We are going all out to transform the customer experience and interaction customers have with Delta. We just went 24/7 in our customer contact centre so customers can now contact us at any point and know we have their backs.”

A Delta Air Lines Airbus 330-300. )Picture courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
A Delta Air Lines Airbus 330-300. Picture courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

The customer is at the heart of everything  that Delta is doing and bringing technology into play as much as possible in the future is key, making it easier for customers to do business – in a similar vein to how Amazon works.

Colvile explains: “We are going to have our website launched in the summer and that will bring some of that functionality people are more familiar with. We are also going to have an app. It will be much easier to book freight with Delta and much easier to interact with Delta.”

Investing in specialist products is another focus. Earlier this year, the carrier launched DASH Critical & Medical in the US domestic market – the first fully GPS-enabled same-day product offered by a US freight carrier.

The service provides real-time tracking and monitoring and customers can ship items up until 45 minutes prior to scheduled flight departure. The premium service is for time-sensitive, small packages such as medical commodities, legal documents, essential machinery parts and aircraft on the ground (AOG) components.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200

Colvile says: “DASH Critical & Medical has gone extremely well. We have customers asking to us to expand so we are expanding into new a market every two weeks, based on our customers needs. We don’t have a preference where we expand and it is all about what customers are telling us where they need this service.

“It is faster than getting it their yourself and you cannot fly it any faster even if you were to pick it up and travel as a passenger yourself. It has great operational performance.

“We want to expand it internationally and are testing at the moment and have pilots running. This is somewhat unique in the industry, which we are excited about.”

Pharmaceuticals is another key area and Delta is in the process of gaining IATA CEIV Pharma certification at its major hubs and main headquarters. “We have done all the training and are very close and hope to have that certification in place this summer,” Colvile says.

She adds: “We are working closely with our partners. AFKLMP have CEIV in Paris and Amsterdam and some airports in Asia have it. We are excited about having the network opportunities where we can fly pharma end-to-end on standardised lanes – that is a big push for us.”

Colvile says Delta will making infrastructure upgrades and is investing heavily with projects in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Salt Lake City. “All our major hubs are going through, or will be going through improvements over the next few years which will include cargo.

“The other area, which you can call infrastructure alongside those developments in warehouses and airports – is how we can bring technology into the picture?,” Colvile says.

Colvie says Delta is also aiming to use technology to reduce trucking dwell times, and improve warehouse experiences and in other processes. “We think there is a huge amount of opportunity and that goes back to learning from the passenger side of the business,” she explains.

There are challenges, but what does Colvile feel they are for Delta? “The challenges I believe we face is how do we de-commoditise ourselves because in an environment where there is more capacity than demand even with demand improving – how do we differentiate ourselves?” she says.

“That is why we are hell-bent on this customer service and operational reliability focus. We believe if we get it right our customers will celebrate that and want to give their freight to us as they know they get value. It is not just going to be about price – it is going to be about value.

“That is the journey we went on the passenger side and the journey we think we believe we can go on air cargo – it is really about differentiating yourself,” Colvile adds.