Throughout the pandemic Qatar Airways Cargo has proved it is a force to be reckoned with both in the Middle East and globally.
Guillaume Halleux spoke to ACW about the reasons behind their resilience and how the cargo airline will keep moving forward in 2021.
What is it that keeps Qatar Airways Cargo on top? “Our people are our greatest asset,” explained Halleux.
“The infrastructure, fleet, network and solutions along with our dedicated team makes the perfect combination and enables us to provide high-end service to our customers.”
For Halleux, “customer-centricity” is at the heart of the business.
“I believe this differentiates us from the rest of our competition. We are always ready to listen to our customers. Even through the peak of the pandemic and while we had to adjust to the new normal, together with our staff, suppliers and partners, we successfully navigated through 2020.”
He noted that resiliency, agility and adaptability were the key traits that helped the carrier through the storm of 2020 despite the challenges the pandemic created in regard to business for the cargo industry.
And there were many challenges thrown in the way. “In May 2020, 53% of our 1,700 staff at the hub contracted the virus or were in quarantine,” Halleux recalled.
“Running operations with 50% of your staff absent was very difficult during the peak of the pandemic, there were delays and other issues, but our customers were very understanding.”
Despite this, Qatar Airways Cargo continued to fly with good capacity albeit slightly disorganised, Halleux admitted. “Cargo was the lifeline for the airlines and the pandemic put air cargo in the spotlight.”
In the spotlight
During this time, the Middle Eastern carrier tripled flights to 180 cargo flights per day, compared with 60 cargo flights per day pre-COVID.
The flights were to cater demand for medical supplies and aid, of which Qatar Airways Cargo transported more than 250,000 tonnes. Charters also supported relief efforts as well as transporting food, perishables and live animals.
“Shopping behaviours drastically changed leading to an increase in e-commerce shipments on our network. Apart from transporting these shipments on our scheduled freighters and flights, we operated more than 40 charters with e-commerce goods last year.
“Overall, we transported over 1.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2020, this is a 4% increase over the previous year and our market share has grown since the start of the pandemic due to the increase in demand for freighter aircraft capacity,” he added, also noting that this further consolidates the carrier’s position as a major player in the global air freight market.
Thus far, the year has gotten off to a flying start, as three Boeing 777 freighters joined the cargo carrier’s fleet, which brings fleet total up to 26 freighters.
“We are looking to the future in terms of business as we once again begin to roll out our growth strategy, particularly in terms of our route and network expansion and enhancements to our solutions,” explained Halleux.
He also noted that digitalisation is set to bring a massive change to the “fragmented industry” and it will be a focus of development for Qatar Airways Cargo this year.
“We have introduced several digitalisation initiatives such as Robotic Process Automation for shipment tracking, Salesforce (Service Cloud), IATA’s One Record Pilot project with Champ and e-bookings via WebCargo by Freightos that has gone live in six countries this month.”
So far the year has been busy, with the fleet carrying close to 5000 tonnes of flowers in the run up to Valentine’s Day as well as transporting vaccines across the network.
“There will be challenges in 2021 as countries try to curb the spread of the second or third wave of the virus while adapting to the new normal and we don’t know what this new normal will be,” Halleux commented.
“The uncertainty has not faded, but 2020 has definitely made us resilient and stronger to deal with this year’s unique challenges.”