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COVID Pandemic - the Role of the GSA

Article submitted by: FEDAGSA – TIACA Affiliate Member

Written by: Glenn Shires, FEDAGSA


Situation analysis at the time was pretty much – most of the world went home but expected (hoped) services would continue. Therefore some were designated essential workers, and there is now no doubt the GSA was indeed essential. Logistically the world needed to function, and if we put the shipping lines to one side, the air and trucking people behaved commendably. Airlines were pretty much grounded in terms of passengers, and those flights had previously carried a huge percentage of global air cargo.

So what does a GSA faced with grounded airlines and desperate forwarders do? They do what they have always done, which is find and, where necessary, invent solutions to sell. A forwarder or shipper doesn’t buy an airline’s service; they actually buy a destination. Our Fedagsa members recognized this, came together, and literally assembled services around the globe, using what was there and adding what wasn’t . The Federations’ air waybills allowed forwarders to buy Sydney as a destination on a 4-day-a-week service, ex: Europe when every EU and Australian carrier was shut. The US could be reached almost daily, ex: Asia again with our air waybills providing the paperwork across a patchwork put together by our lateral thinking members.

Huge amounts of medical equipment and then vaccines were transported via and with our members who chartered missing links and turned passenger to cargo aircraft around in hours. Rounds of applause, please, for Opensky in Italy, Solent in the US, and Cargo Flights Co in Thailand. Even a three-times-a-week service London-JFK was created by our guys. There are too many to mention, but every week we were impressed and grateful for the services on offer to the forwarders by our membership.

FEDAGSA GSA’s were at their very best during this crisis, using all our tools and their know-how to deliver such services. Rates were a disaster by previous standards, but having no service would have been far worse. The airlines soon learned the value of their cargo people who provided essential cash flow to keep the airline alive. Our GSA’s filled every cbm of space to make it work, frequently guaranteeing the loads and associated payments needed to make flights happen.

So what did we learn from all this? That ingenuity and commitment can achieve amazing things in tough times. However, to do so, we needed great communications and top-notch IT systems to process the data and make the space available to a desperate market. The Fedagsa GSA had access to these tools and prospered through hard work in hard times.

Interestingly not one GSA member failed despite all the shutdowns so when a carrier is looking for payment guarantees from GSA’s they should seriously consider who is actually the real risk……. As airlines were bailed out, but GSA’s didn’t need this.

Conclusion for me, at least, is that when the chips were down, the FEDAGSA GSA’s were there, and they really stepped up and got it done!