Widely known as the "windy city", in summer, Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities in America. Often it is said to be "like New York, but cleaner" and "more European" than other American cities. Chicago is certainly just as clean and beautiful in winter as it is the rest of the year, but the bitter cold must be factored in – beautiful but brutal. Given temperatures dropping to double figures below zero, combined with the winds it is famous for, conditions in the city can certainly feel arctic. Such low temperatures and high snowfalls would bring most cities to their knees. But not Chicago. "Well prepared", summarises Yilmaz Oeder, Gateway Manager Chicago, the attitude of the inhabitants of the city on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Regardless of how much snow falls or how cold it is, flight cancellations due to weather are seldom occurrences. "The streets are clear, cargo can be transported – and most importantly, the planes can still take off", explains Turkish-born Oeder, who has been in charge of Operations for Lufthansa Cargo in Chicago for the last four years. Thanks to this, the station can be proud of its high freighter punctuality, even in bad weather conditions.
The Cargo staff do not only have to be prepared when it comes to the weather, though. The market here is tough, too. It is not just because, as is often the case, the market is not big enough; it is rather because the market is so strong. One of the largest business parks in the USA is based in the Chicago vicinity. Companies from the healthcare industry, such as Siemens, clients from the chemical industry, such as Lilly in Indianapolis as well as automotive customers such as John Deere ensure that flights leaving the area to European destinations are consistently full. Chicago functions as a gateway. Many customers consolidate cargo here and across the entire region – and freight forwarders reach from Indianapolis to Denver right through to Detroit. "Even locations that we at Lufthansa Cargo would count as part of our New York station, are often served by many forwarders via Chicago as the infrastructure is better", clarifies Jens Engelbrechtsen, District Sales Manager Chicago.
The downside is an extremely high level of competition. "I am pleased to compare our station to an oasis in the desert in the middle of the dry season; everyone goes there", is how Engelbrechtsen explains the situation. "If an airline doesn't know where to go with their freighters – then Chicago is always the right call."
In this highly challenging market, an airline still has to differentiate itself. "The shortest routes to and from the plane." This is an often-heard motto, but it is rarely so true as it is at Lufthansa Cargo in Chicago. The nose of the B777F almost points into the warehouse, in which up to 240 pallets can be stored. "The fastest throughput really is a key measure of quality", according to Oeder. But a well-trained, flexible team and investment in equipment are considered great advantages for customers. There are 18 sites in the warehouse for temperature-controlled goods: "Really it should be more than that. Cool cargo and hazardous goods are a growing market. It is a good thing for us to be certified as a cool station – this mark of quality is important to customers", adds Engelbrechtsen.
But degrees of warmth not only apply to the warehouse, but also to the team. "We know that we can only represent our product in the best possible way when we always do so as a team – as such, we team up and each individual colleague goes the extra mile", explains Oeder.