GSA: Facing competition in Holland


Mariët Zöllner’s team handles Finnair’s Dutch sales in a fast-moving cargo environment.

Finnair Cargo has an active presence in the Netherlands, with freight travelling on daily flights between Amsterdam and Helsinki. The airline’s sales in the country are handled by Globe Air Cargo, a subsidiary of ECS Group.

Mariët Zöllner leads the seven-member staff at Globe Air Cargo’s Amsterdam office and works with roughly ten airlines on a regular basis. Amidst a shifting global economy, increased competition and faster booking processes, her small team has only become busier over the years.

Communicating for cargo

During her 20-year career in the airline industry, Zöllner has worked on both the passenger and the cargo side of sales. “Cargo has a completely different style; we say that because cargo can’t talk, we have to do the talking,” she says.

According to Zöllner, the air cargo business has been greatly improved by the introduction of services such as e-waybills and electronic tracking. “The fancy computer programmes and reservation systems used to only be on the passenger side,” she says. “The past ten years have brought big changes. A lot of our day-to-day work can be handled online now.”

Online systems also represent major differences between carriers. “Our work is done more efficiently, but we also represent carriers who need us to do a lot of administrative work – reports and analyzing,” she says. “Some airlines, such as Finnair, are well structured with their systems, and we don’t have to spend as much time preparing reports. An airline with daily flights can actually present less extra work than an airline that’s mostly offline and only has two flights a week.”

Deciphering demand

A small staff allows for shorter lines of communication, but each member of Zöllner’s team also wears different hats from day to day. “When you are small, you have to push to reach your goal amidst the competition,” she says.

Staying up to date with changing customer needs keeps Globe Air Cargo’s staff busy. “We have to stay innovative in order to offer our customers the best rates and routing to their destinations,” says Zöllner. “We used to have monthly meetings to brainstorm our strategy for the coming months; now we brainstorm every day.”

One of the largest industry changes is reflected in customer interactions, as companies transporting products by air have become more discerning about costs. “It’s an open market, and customers bargain for the best deals, so we have to stay focused on what goes on in our markets,” she says.

Dutch industries are also waiting for the European economy to reach a new period of growth. The Netherlands’ austerity measures have been on the news, particularly in conjunction with September’s general election. The Dutch economy is expected to grow slightly in 2013, due to improvements in trade.

“It’s important for us to have faith in the future, as long as we stay stable and grow a littlebit. We are very much dependent on the rest of the world, but we are also a relatively healthy economy,” Zöllner says.

Precious cargo

Among of the most notable products transported from the Netherlands to Finland by air are radioactive materials for the medical industry. “They aren’t number one in terms of volume, but in terms of the work involved, they are the most important. These life-saving materials are used, for example, in cancer treatments,” she says.

Dutch customers have also begun taking advantage of Finnair’s Asian connections. “In Holland we have a lot of options and capacity for air freight to Asia, but many opt for Finnair because of their combination of service and price.”

When Globe Air Cargo began working with Finnair in 2006, the company concentrated mostly on freight to Finland and Russia. “It has gone from being a small airline to being among our top five customers in terms of volume and revenue. This growth has been especially significant in the past two years,” Zöllner says.

Unwinding outside of Amsterdam

With three small children, Mariët Zöllner’s free time is mostly taken up by family. When she gets the opportunity, she likes going to the theater, taking photographs and riding horses. “Riding on the beach helps me clear my head,” she says.

Her six-year daughter has recently started taking riding lessons. “I’m trying to infect her with the horse bug,” she says with a laugh.

When asked to give tips to tourists in the region, Zöllner recommends the cities of Haarlem and Utrecht, both of which are within a short driving distance from the capital. “Amsterdam is a hot, interesting city, but these two towns have a different atmosphere. They are student cities and have wonderful places for wining and dining.

 By Laura Palotie

Published September 25, 2012

Category: Local features, Market updates, Finnair Cargo