Oman Air Cargo has major plans to grow its cargo share in the Middle East and take on the heavweight carriers in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Air Cargo Week spoke to senior vice president for commercial cargo, Mohammed Al Musafir about how business is at the Muscat-based airline and where it is making investments.
ACW: How is the Middle East air cargo market?
Al Musafir: The Middle East (ME) cargo industry was adversely disturbed last year from an increased airline capacity that had surpassed demand during the current economic downturn. Due to a surplus of global airfreight capacity along with slower global trade, ME volume growth last year slowed down in comparison with performances seen in earlier years. However, over Q1 of 2017, the market has begun to stabilise, and strategies our team have put in place have enabled us to perform at a positive level.
ACW: How is business and what are you focusing on?
Al Musafir: Although the market is volatile and changes may occur, with Oman Air constantly growing its fleet and destination mix, we have managed to further diversify our market and tactically grow our market share.
Oman Air Cargo focuses on a healthy cargo mix, ensuring we are not dependent on a single cargo sector. We are constantly working to improve our cargo services and offerings, and in the process of better defining our special products. Our valuable cargo product ‘Secure Vault’ is one of a number our division will be focusing on as we better define our products and services.
ACW: What is your future strategy to grow business?
Al Musafir: We work with particular focus on our hub in Muscat becoming a global transshipment route between the east and west. Our widebody fleet operates on all our Europe and Far East destinations and with our new state-of-the-art cargo facility nearing completion, we will have the tools required to carry and handle much greater volumes with quicker turnaround times and greater customer service.
ACW: Are you looking to expand your route network?
Al Musafir: Oman Air has taken-off on an ambitious growth strategy. It will see us expand our existing international network even further, increase the strength of our fleet, delivering more consignments to more destinations than ever before. With our added destinations of Mashhad, Najaf, and our first China operation to Guangzhou, along with upcoming scheduled routes to more African destinations, our focus for 2017 will be on Africa and Asia, as well as expanding our partnership service agreements as we strategically expand our network to better.
ACW: How is Oman expanding its cargo business?
Al Musafir: First, we are working on expanding our product and service offerings, introducing more specialised services and better tailored solutions to our growing client base. We will be launching a cloud-based cargo management system to manage our expansion plans. The system will provide reliable, transparent, and real-time data throughout our logistics chain.
Second, our new cargo facility at our hub in Muscat, is in development to begin operations in the first half of 2018. With an initial annual capacity of 350,000 metric tonnes, the 38,000 square metre facility provides loading and unloading functions, export and import handling activities, air-to-sea and air-to-road services, and screening and customs inspection procedures. The facility accommodates frozen and chilled storage, secure and dangerous goods storage, bonded storage and quarantine facilities, as well as a live animal centre.
Third, our customer service department. We constantly strive to offer best-in-class services to institute strong, lasting relationships with every client, partner, and stakeholder. We understand professional customer service is the core of a successful business. Our teams are at the foundation of success.
ACW: Where are you going to make investments?
Al Musafir: One of the initiatives we are studying include introducing leased freighters under the management of Oman Air Cargo, to better service our main destinations in Europe, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Far East.
The new cargo facility will give us the required infrastructure to use as a springboard for our growth plans. It grants us the ability to offer specialty products and services including express, perishables, pharmaceuticals, valuables, DGR, and live animals and capacity to better handle our growing customer base.
This allows us to further compete with other regional airlines and direct more consignments through our Muscat hub.
We look at technology as an advantage to constantly improve our operations and services. This new cargo management system will also allow us to shift towards e-AWB to better serve clients. Oman Air Cargo’s upcoming mobile application will give our clients access to real-time information. From flight schedules, booking capability, and local agent support, to tracking the status of shipment throughout the logistic chain, all available at the tip of a finger.