Helming operations in Singapore is UAE's Regional Director Robert Chung, a cargo industry veteran with close to 40 years of experience - and surprisingly, over 26 of them working with Finnair.
In May 2011, Finnair restarted scheduled flights between Helsinki and Singapore, with Singapore firm United Aviation Express as Finnair Cargo’s General Sales Agent (GSA) for the city-state and the surrounding region of Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.
Chung´s history with Finnair Cargo goes all the way back to 1985, when the airline first entered Singapore skies. Even when it stopped flying into Singapore in 2000, Chung was entrusted with the role of a Finnair Cargo GSA and continued feeding cargo traffic into the ‘online’ hubs of Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong. In 2009, Chung joined United Aviation Express, bringing the Finnair Cargo account with him.
For Chung, entering the cargo business was a stroke of serendipity. Fresh out of the army, Chung had answered an advertisement to join Japan Airlines in passenger operations, but the hiring personnel decided that he was more suited for cargo. He spent 10 years with the airline, where he picked up experience in sales, before furthering his career with a freight forwarding firm. Later, working in Finnair’s Singapore office in the 80s and 90s, he was given the opportunity to head other departments while concurrently running the cargo department, in sales and marketing on the passenger side and as a station manager.
”I’d been fortunate to have worked on both the operational and sales departments, which is not a usual career path working for a foreign carrier in Singapore” grins the easygoing 58-year-old. A family man at heart, Chung likes nothing more than cooking for his family (whipping up local delights such as laksa), weekly ballroom dancing sessions with his wife, as well as golfing outings within the industry’s social groups.
While his clients welcomed Finnair’s return as Finnair Cargo has a good reputation from its older days in Singapore, Chung admits that the timing for re-entering with daily online service was challenging, as the market is served with all major carriers and there have been some indications of overcapacity.
Chung adds: “Finnair came back when the market was slow, and in the midst of an excess capacity situation from Asia, where passenger traffic is high and flight frequencies frequent. I'm confident; that we can develop a good base load with our customers who especially have a transportation needs between Singapore and Northern part of Europe."
Chung feels that the mid- and long term outlook for air cargo is positive, and there are areas in where Finnair can grow. “Our strength is in the Nordics and Eastern Europe where we can provide same day connections via Helsinki". Finnair Cargo provides daily service between Singapore and Europe and there not so many carriers who can provide similar frequencies and speed what we can offer, Chung adds with a smiling face.
Text and photo by Lim Sio Hui
Published May 3, 2012