Air Cargo Update Exclusive - Air Canada Cargo makes big push in the new normal

Published: Friday, June 17, 2022

“I do not think I have stopped learning from this pandemic or indeed in life in general, but a major lesson learned for me recently, was how quickly people band together to find solutions and the speed at which creativity and relentless work ethic comes rushing forward in times of need.”

Q&A with Matthieu Casey Air Canada Managing Director Commercial – Cargo

Air Canada has shown incredible resilience and innovation during the pandemic, serving Canadaʼs people across its vast terrain that occupies much of North Americaʼs continent, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and the Arctic Ocean in the north.

The airline reaches out even to the farthest corners of the country helping people and businesses survive the freezing cold months with temperatures as low as -5°C and -15 °C or sometimes below -30°C in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Beyond the Canadian borders, Air Canada also transports different types of cargo. Its good business standing in the industry has resulted to a 42% increase on its revenue in Q1 2022 to $398 million.

The Quebec-based Matthieu Casey, Air Canada’s Managing Director for Commercial Cargo, shares his insights in this Q&A about the company’s journey amid the air cargo industry’s growing influence and role in facilitating global economic and healthcare recovery efforts following the pandemic.

Casey, a communications graduate at University of Ottawa, who also studied at The Wharton School, has spent over 25 years in the aviation industry, the last 12 at Air Canada Cargo.

Prior to his promotion, he was Air Canada Cargo’s Senior Director, Cargo Global Sales & Revenue Optimization. In his new role, he oversees global sales, revenue management, and cargo analytics with responsibility for the airline’s digital and direct
customer experience.

How is business doing so far for Air Canada Cargo since the pandemic struck in March of 2020? Please elaborate and share some figures if possible?

The entire team at Air Canada Cargo and indeed Air Canada as a whole was tremendously quick to pivot and ensure capacity was put back into the market on key trade lanes, with a particular focus on sustained and regular scheduled capacity to ensure market stability for the air cargo community. This approach provided much needed stability in an otherwise very unstable time and was testament to our dedication to serving our customers and long-standing partnerships.

Our growth, both on volumes and revenue, has been very positive, and is in fact outpacing many of our market peers. The growth was also sustained and sure-footed, with a steady upward trend and our 2021 revenue numbers being more than double our 2019 numbers.

What are your plans for 2022 to keep up with the growing demand for air cargo services?

As announced last year, we are tremendously excited to be commencing our freighter operations, with the first of our eight converted Boeing 767-300ER freighters having entered service late last year. Our second will enter service this month and a subsequent six more will enter into service by 2023 at a cadence of about one every four months. This growth, coupled with the resumption of our passenger network, will
provide an increase in cargo capacity in 2022 above pre-pandemic levels.

How many employees do you currently have? How many more will you likely hire as you widen your services?

Our team has always been a lean yet effective one, but with the growth we have seen and are continuing to plan for, we have been actively recruiting more talent to support our strategy and continue to deliver on our promise on customer service excellence.

What would you say are your biggest challenges in serving your markets globally?

We are much more focused on looking at challenges as opportunities and one such example is what we have witnessed around the world with warehouse congestion. As a result, we are accelerating our infrastructure improvement programs with targeted investments into many of our
strategically positioned self-handled global cargo hubs in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Frankfurt, London, and Chicago.

We have recently increased our warehouse space in Frankfurt and just last month, inaugurated the first phase of our 30,000 sq ft temperature-controlled facility in Toronto.

Do you think automation in cargo handling is the way to move forward? Does the investment justify the benefits or returns?

Automation is certainly a key component of our infrastructure improvements and only increases the productivity of our teams, which leads to improved service to our customers. The added benefit of this is an AirCargo Update improved work environment for our colleagues.

What sort of tech investments have you made to enhance your operations or services?

We are continuing to invest in many digitalization projects tied to improving the customer journey and enhancing the user experience. We have developed and released multiple API s providing streamlined connectivity with our customers and partners, and we have invested in modernizing our contact centres to improve service levels and support our teams and customers.

Our ongoing artificial intelligence labs are improving efficiencies and supporting initiatives aimed at improving decision making, and providing better and more robust capacity outlooks. Another goal is to simplify acceptance processes in our warehouses, which will reduce potential service deviations.

Please update us with the services and products that you currently offer worldwide.

We are CEIV certified both for Live Animals and Pharmaceutical, and provide services across most commodities. Please share a brief
background about yourself and some lessons we could all learn from this pandemic.

I have over 25 years in the airline industry, the last 12 at Air Canada Cargo and have held various roles ranging from Commercial positions in Canada and Global Sales as well as heading up Revenue Management, Interline partnerships, Marketing and Business Intelligence.

What have I learned from the pandemic? I do not think I have stopped learning from this pandemic or indeed in life in general, but a major lesson learned for me recently, was how quickly people band together to find solutions and the speed at which creativity and relentless work ethic comes rushing forward in times of need.