In December last year, Delta Air Lines has reinstated its New York to Mumbai service after being out of the scene for 10 long years. The airline’s cargo arm, Delta Cargo, has been a crucial enabler for air cargo between India and the Americas. In this exclusive interview, Eric Wilson, MD-Global Cargo Sales, Delta Air Lines, throws light on the benefits that the US-based airline’s new non-stop 16-hour long flight holds for the air cargo sector. He also talks about the infrastructural developments and challenges in cargo handling and much more.
How will the new services launched by the airlines of non-stop 16 hours flight from Mumbai to New York help the cargo customers and freight forwarders?
The New York-JFK-Mumbai flight filled a missing piece of Delta’s network and is also the only nonstop service between these airports. For freight and mail customers, it provides extensive import and export opportunities. The aircraft can carry an average of 12 tons of cargo and because JFK is one of our largest hubs, freight can be conveniently forwarded to more than 50 onward destinations throughout North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. Key export products from India are pharmaceuticals, automobile parts, perishables, courier shipments and general cargo. We are also seeing strong demand for the movement of e-Commerce. Indeed, this is currently the fastest growing business vertical globally.
What are the new infrastructural and technological developments that the airlines are looking into in order to make
their cargo services more efficient?
Delta Cargo continues to look for innovative products to improve our service and make it easy for our customers to do business with us. We are focused on providing transparency through the shipment process with GPS tracking, which is a key customer demand. We’re also increasingly moving to digitising our operations, and last year we saw a 20% increase in global online bookings compared to 2017.
Furthermore, Delta Cargo is enhancing tracking of shipments to include real-time visibility if a shipment is within one of the Bluetooth equipped Unit Load Devices (ULD), as well as live text (SMS) notifications for booking changes and tracking notifications.
How many destinations are you connecting around the globe in terms of logistics?
We have a network that connects every corner of the globe. With our partners, Delta Cargo flies to more than 600 destinations in over 100 countries, enabling us to cover all major markets around the world and carry more than 2.2 billion cargo ton-miles each year.
What new initiatives or steps will Delta Air Lines take in order to become carbon neutral from March 1, 2020?
We’re focusing primarily on three areas to become carbon neutral; Carbon reduction, carbon removement and engaging our stakeholders and partners to further enhance our ambitions. The global aviation industry accounts for roughly 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions and here at Delta, 98% of carbon emissions come from our aircraft. Our fleet renewal program alongside improved flight operations, weight reduction, and increased development and use of sustainable aviation fuels will have a huge positive impact on our environmental goal.
Earlier this month, Delta announced that we will be committing $1 billion over the next 10 years to support its journey to mitigate all emissions from its global business going forward. The airline will invest in driving innovation, advancing clean air travel technologies, accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions and waste, and establishing new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions
What’s more? by investing in innovative projects and technology to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere that go beyond the airline’s current commitments, and investigating carbon removal opportunities through forestry, wetland restoration, grassland conservation, marine and soil capture, and other negative emissions technologies we can also be a force for good. Delta’s investment will create new projects and methods to reduce its carbon footprint, benefit global communities and make it easier for other organisations to explore similar options to address their own carbon footprints while simultaneously minimising our reliance on carbon offsetting.
What is the unique selling point of the airline in terms of cargo handling?
We are constantly striving for the next innovation to meet and exceed the needs of our customers. We’re on the leading edge of employee safety innovation by partnering with Sarcos to explore use cases for the world’s first untethered, self-powered wearable robotics that reduce fatigue and the risk of injury while simultaneously increasing control and safety.
We’ve also launched new products recently that keep us a leading cargo provider. One example of this is partnering with CarePod, which has developed a new, smart pet travel carrier and service that helps Delta carry batter and monitor pets throughout our global network, with real-time updates for customers, utilising proprietary technology.
Added to all of this is our commitment to world-class customer service and reliability that make it easier to do business with Delta Cargo and ensures our customers keep trusting us with their shipments.
What challenges does the airline face in terms of cargo handling at the global level? And, what steps are taken in order to resolve them?
The cargo industry is very much cyclical due to global economic activity and trade conditions. The whole team keeps a close eye on industry trends to assess pockets of growth opportunities across the globe and the duration of the challenging demand environment. Despite the current economic headwinds, our groundwork done over the last three years ensures we’re in a much better position than ever before. By focusing on our partnerships and being the first to market with new products, Delta Cargo has consistently been an industry leader. This puts us in a good place for future growth and to be resilient against future challenges.
You have more than two decades of experience in the air industry. How do you think the industry has evolved in the past years?
Over my 20+ years in the air cargo industry, I have witnessed or been a part of a number of changes. Speed, digitalisation and improved customer service are three areas that have changed substantially over the years. Improved customer service and speed-to-market, especially at the origin and destination, have been significant. Delta understands the urgent nature of air freight and we are constantly looking for ways to accept shipments faster and easier and recover shipments to customers at destination faster. The industry is also moving to digitalisation such as with electronic air waybills (eAWB) but we have more work to do as an industry in this area. Delta is the leader in the move towards fully electronic air waybills, with over 80% of our shipments moving under eAWB. I’m excited to see where our industry heads next.