Leaving on a high

The outgoing GM Cargo Sales and Marketing Mark Sutch looks back on his time with Cathay Pacific Cargo

You’re leaving Cathay Pacific Cargo – where are you going?

I am staying with the company to become General Manager for South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. I will be based in India looking after the passenger, cargo and operational sides of the business. It’s an exciting opportunity in some dynamic markets.

What has your time at Cargo taught you?

I’ve been at Cathay Pacific for 20 years, and in cargo for the past four, but even in the first 16 years I always understood the importance of cargo to the business – and we’re seeing that at the moment. Cargo is on the up, even as the rest of the business is facing some structural difficulties. We are based in the biggest cargo hub in the world, and we need to take advantage of that and keep investing in our products and services.

Formal or fun times, Mark was at the heart of Cathay Pacific Cargo’s events. Click through to see more pictures of Mark’s time at Cathay Pacific Cargo

How does that fit with the recent reorganisation?

Very well. I know people have been concerned that we don’t have a dedicated Director of Cargo now, but cargo remains core to what we do. We have 20 of our own freighters and we now have two more through our partnership with Atlas.

We have gone through the reorganisation process with the other parts of the company. As a result, we are aiming to become more efficient, improve the speed and quality of decision-making and improve productivity so that we can focus more on our customers.

One of the benefits for Cargo being under the mainline Cathay Pacific commercial umbrella is that all the aircraft deliveries coming up are passenger aircraft with good cargo capabilities. It really makes sense that we plan our network with cargo at its core.

We’ve already seen that synergy with the new routes to Tel Aviv and Barcelona, which have excellent cargo uplift. Cargo will always take a role in ensuring that routes are profitable, and all our talent, expertise and experience are still in place.

What things are you most proud of from your time at Cargo?

There are a number of things. I think we’ve done a very good job of professionalising our account management. We’ve taken that to the next level with a new structure that looks after our global accounts.

I’m also proud of the Lufthansa joint venture, between Hong Kong and the European Union, which is live ex-Hong Kong now. We’ve added a lot of new destinations, including Mexico – both Mexico City and Guadalajara. We put Calgary online to support the oil industry, but as the oil price fell we’ve been able to diversify our product uplift and keep operating there.

We’ve started Brisbane West Wellcamp, using that part of Australia as a food basket for exporting perishables into China and the rest of Asia. And then there’s Portland, on the back of one particular dominant shipper.

Partnerships seem central to these achievements. Is that the case?

Absolutely; both with suppliers and customers. Take Latin America. We don’t operate there beyond Mexico because it’s too far and too complex to resource. But through our network of GSAs and interline agreements with LAN and Atlas, we had the second biggest tonnage out of Chile to Asia last year – by just 60 tonnes – and we’re not even online there. That shows the power of partnerships.

And while we’re in a strong position now, this is a cyclical business, so we have to prepare to remain competitive when times aren’t so good. That’s all about focusing on the customer and making sure we’re sharing long-term growth together with our global partners through joint-product development and business review meetings.

What advice would you give your successor?

Get on the road. Meet your customers. Be responsive to what they want and understand who they are working with, because those requirements drive a lot of what we do. Try relentlessly to lean our transactions, and see how we can help to make processes more straightforward.

We’re the number one e-AWB airline in the world and we need to carry on leading and finding ways to innovate for the benefit of the industry as a whole to make business quicker and cheaper. And we’re just starting to look at data analytics. I know Nelson well, and the business is in safe hands.

What will you miss most?

I’m really going to miss the people. Cargo is a people business. I leave many of the forwarders not just as business partners but very good friends – and those friendships will last. As I move on to India, which is a very cargo-heavy market, I know I’ll be catching up with people I know on the subcontinent and beyond.