Etihad Cargo was flying high in 2022, exceeding its operational performance targets due, in part, to an exceptional first six months. While that pace did normalise in the second half of the year from a cargo standpoint, the logistics wing of the airline brought in roughly a third of overall revenue to the group.
The carrier achieved 80.5% on-time-performance (OTP) for freighter departures and 84.1% OTP for freighter arrivals, ahead of its 80 per cent target. Etihad Cargo has also maintained a delivered-as-promised (DAP) rate of 86.6 per cent, a 2.6% improvement compared to the previous year and over its target of 85%.
“It was an exceptional year for cargo operations and a record year for Etihad Cargo. Towards the second half, the load factors were in the high 90s from a passenger perspective, so, combined, the airline had a record year in terms of results,” Leonard Rodrigues, Etihad Cargo’s head of revenue management and network planning, said.
For a global carrier such as Etihad Cargo, it’s not surprising that their main goal going forward is to build on the momentum of the previous year to ensure that they continue to meet customers’ capacity demands with agility. This mission to remain the air cargo partner of choice comes with innovation, digitalisation and operational excellence.
Etihad Cargo’s app allows for airfreight to be tracked while in transit — cargo on the go — as well as offering real-time flight schedules at the customer’s fingertips. Alongside this, Etihad Cargo is also a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) initiative e-AWB. This initiative eliminates the need for a paper AWB, making cargo paperless, improving accuracy and reliability and speeding up cargo acceptance.
This drive for innovation is shown in some of the offerings presented by Etihad Cargo that are designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the carrier’s operations. “We are really investing to make it smoother, more controlled, and reduce offloads. From a commercial standpoint, our goal is to be the cargo partner of choice,” Rodrigues explained.
To achieve that, Etihad Cargo recognises that it’s crucial they are as easy to deal with as possible. This is done through maximising the potential of technology to ensure peak customer experience, with Rodrigues revealing that more is yet to come, with a lot of innovation “stacked up and ready to implement.”
READ: Etihad Cargo launches AI-powered solutions to transform airfreight operations and optimise cargo capacity
Rising to meet a changing market
With the airfreight market experiencing fluctuating demand levels over the past few years, presenting both challenges and opportunities, Etihad Cargo made expanding its global network a priority in 2022. This goal saw the carrier secure increased belly-hold capacity to key destinations, including Bangkok, Brussels, Dublin, Guangzhou, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, London, Madrid, New York, Singapore and Vienna.
In 2023, the carrier has continued this expansion, already boosting capacity to China with an additional Shanghai freighter service, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to boost its African network and expanding its offering in the European market across Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Copenhagen.
While the carrier’s strong growth has been driven by a period no one could have predicted, which saw a super peak for demand in 2021, Etihad Cargo is realistic but optimistic about its vision going forward.
“The game is changing,” Rodrigues said. “What we are focusing on is maintaining the record throughput on every plane, making sure that we have as much contribution on every plane, and building better and better performance.”
“Market conditions are unpredictable, so no one is able to predict with a high level of accuracy what the situation will be in five years time. However, Etihad Cargo is taking the lessons it has learned and is positioned to respond to dynamic changes with agility,” he continued.
It’s not just the level of demand in the airfreight industry that is reshaping the sector. An increase in competition and a reshaping of the way logistics companies operate across the entire supply chain is leading companies to adapt and innovate to remain ahead of the curve. “There are all these new entrants, all those aircraft available, an increase in maritime players coming into the air segment,” which makes it “relatively difficult to predict the exact balance between demand and supply,” Rodrigues explained.
Despite the unpredictable nature of the industry, Etihad Cargo is looking up, with Rodrigues dismissing the risk of a “negative future” on the horizon for the airfreight space. “Everybody wants to mitigate the risk of anything problematic happening, so we think there are a lot of people who want to team up and build a global partnership.”
READ: Etihad Cargo expands Chinese network
Welcome to the UAE
Earlier this year, Etihad Cargo, in partnership with the World Cargo Summit, welcomed the airfreight industry to Abu Dhabi, showcasing their global vision for the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Alongside Etihad Cargo, the nation has not shied away from its vision to build a global cargo hub, capitalising on its ideal position in the world, linking to multiple regions in a relatively short timeframe.
“Etihad Cargo is now back in growth mode. But, in addition to our focus on growth, we are committed to attracting the right partners and building an ecosystem in Abu Dhabi,” Rodrigues explained. “This is about responsiveness, agility and making sure that we have the right efficiencies and capabilities 10 years from now.”
“What we’re increasingly looking at is how to ensure Etihad Cargo can synergise with partners. You need to have an integrated relationship where you can get the most out of it. We’re trying to build those win-win partnerships with different companies.”
At the centre of this vision is the creation of a pharma hub at Etihad Cargo’s home base, a long-term project that will allow the carrier and the country to profit from the premium side of the air cargo market. Etihad Cargo’s award-winning PharmaLife service is designed for the safe and reliable transportation of pharmaceuticals and life science products. Even with the decrease in the movement of Covid-19 vaccines, Etihad has continued to see strong performance in this area, as it works with Abu Dhabi to build a global pharma hub in the region.
“We still have quite a bit of focus on our enhanced premium product range,” Rodrigues laid out. “The Pharma facility is still new. We need to make sure that we have the right product when it comes to transiting pharma products, so we are working on this, enhancing capabilities for the ground phase of our temperature-controlled solutions.”