Say you work at a haute-couture fashion house. One of your brand ambassadors gets in touch. They’re going to a gala event tomorrow night in Tokyo but they haven’t got a gown. Who are you going to call? Well, in the case of Chanel, it will be Linex, the GSA (general sales agent) for Cathay Cargo’s Cathay Courier express delivery solution, which gets small consignments to where they’re needed – and quick.
Linex is part of the Lenton Group, which specialises in courier and e-commerce shipments under a variety of brands: including DPD in Greater China, which is the main European parcel brand of La Poste (the French postal service), and Linex, which adopts the green branding of Cathay Cargo online in an arrangement with Cathay that goes back to 1989.
Lenton’s new Group CEO is Valerie Dubuisson, who started last year after 20 years of experience working for La Poste, mainly on the e-commerce side of the business: something which will become progressively more of a focus for both airline and agent.
‘The Lenton Group was created 40 years ago initially in Taiwan, to develop a cross-border cargo business, and it progressively extended its footprint across Asia, setting up operations in various countries,’ she says. ‘We mostly use air transportation solutions because our positioning is more an express company transporting time-critical products between Asia and the rest of the world.’
The more courier side of the Group, Linex, offers door-to-door collection and delivery, plus its own dedicated customs clearance procedures in the 18 countries where Linex operates directly, with teams based in the airport warehouses from which Cathay Cargo operates to ensure expedient acceptance and release for Cathay Courier’s time-sensitive shipments.
Who are the customers?
I would say we have two categories of customers,’ says Dubuisson. ‘The first is clients who are buying from us the speed and reliability of using Cathay Pacific, and this would include the big express integrators, freight forwarders or small courier companies with customers that have time-critical transport needs. We offer ‘next flight out’ for really time-critical products that depend on the speed of the Cathay Courier solution. For these customers we transport everything from pharma products to machine parts or a small document for a bank – a really large range of goods.
‘The second category of customers wants the speed plus the value-added services that Linex can offer thanks to our 17 stations and our network of agents. They purchase two things from us: what Cathay is offering and what Linex is offering – and they really need both.’
The Cathay Courier part of that deal is speed. The booking window shuts 240 minutes before any flight, and goods can be accepted 90 minutes before departure. It’s as quick on arrival, with goods and documents released in 90 minutes, with some regional variations. Linex can then clear customs through its own lanes, and arrange first- and last-mile delivery and collection depending on individual requirements.
A true partnership
Pascal Lai is Customer Solutions Manager at Cathay Cargo, and oversees the Cathay Courier solution. For him, Linex is a true collaborative partner. ‘Linex looks after the day-to-day running of Cathay Courier. Their sales team will inform us about how much space we need to allocate to shipments on specific flights, and their operational teams deal with consignments in the terminal including conducting customs clearance.’
In Hong Kong, in addition to Linex’s corporate headquarters in the middle of town, and the office based in the Cathay Cargo Terminal, there’s an additional facility in Kwai Chung where the company’s vans are based to collect and deliver consignments. ‘Although we have our own vans here in Hong Kong, we work with other delivery vendors such as Ninja Van throughout South East Asia,’ says Tenniel Choi, Chief Operating Officer at Linex. ‘And as part of the service, we also provide track-and-trace for our customers, and handle all of their bookings, accounting, operational processing. So there is more to being a GSA than sales!’
The advantages of Cathay Courier
One group of people who rely on Cathay Courier’s speed is dentists the world over, particularly those from France and Israel. They take a mould of their patients’ teeth and then speed it to dental labs in Shenzhen, where replacement crowns, dentures and more are made. ‘We handle the flights, the customs clearance and delivery,’ says Choi. ‘These dental moulds are top priority and companies used to use the integrators, but it was not quick enough – by using Cathay, the timing is quicker.’
Additionally, as Dubuisson points out, the one-size-fits-all approach of the integrators does not leave customers flexibility in the event of really urgent shipments. ‘I think this is the beauty of this product,’ she says. ‘Because we have stations or agents that work directly with Cathay handlers, we can retrieve shipments super quickly, in order of priorities we have defined in advance. We have our own special clearance services or recovery services, and this is when we can make the best of what Cathay Cargo can offer.’
Of course, during the pandemic, some of these benefits diminished while Cathay’s network and flight frequencies were reduced. ‘It was tough for our group, but also a time of creativity as we have designed new solutions,’ says Dubuisson. ‘But what’s nice is that the customers are still there. As Cathay adds more flights they’re coming back: the trust is still there and the relationship is still there, so we are pretty confident about 2023. Cathay’s reputation is very, very good in the market.’
A digitalised future
Another welcome development for 2023 will be a refreshed Cathay Courier product.
‘The courier product is very old-school and still very much managed on paper: possibly because the actual volumes are quite small, so it may not have been a priority in the past,’ says Dubuisson. ‘It’s really time to change this.’
This is something with which Cathay Cargo’s Lai is in full agreement. ‘With Cathay Courier at the moment, there isn’t the visibility for us or our customers, and the processes are manual,’ he says.
Keeping things hands-on in terms of high-touch customer service needs also to come with the digital expectations of today’s air cargo and e-commerce customers. In the growing e-commerce market, end-to-end visibility is becoming a prerequisite; and without digital records, it’s hard to assess and identify areas for improvement in a product. That’s why work has started to integrate operational and booking platforms between Cathay Cargo and Linex, with a view to a product refresh later this year.
‘We’re super-excited about this project,’ says Dubuisson. ‘It will be really good to have a more automated data exchange between our systems and Cathay’s and it will simplify everything from booking to allocation and billing, as well as giving shipment visibility to our customers.’
So from later this year, Linex and Cathay Courier customers will be able not only to get that essential gown in time for the gala – they’ll be able to see how quickly it gets there, too.