Qatar Airways Cargo has seen freight tonne kilometres increase by 21 per cent so far in 2016 and is working on continuing to improve and innovate services for customers, chief cargo officer Ulrich Ogiermann tells Air Cargo Week (ACW) staff writer James Muir.
It has seen the launch of a number of new services, both for freighter and passenger bellyhold flights, with more due this year. Qatar has also launched its QR Express product for airport-to-airport time-critical shipments and QR Live for transporting live animals.
Other premium products such as QR Pharma for pharmaceuticals and QR Fresh for perishables have also been performing strongly.
Ogiermann says: “Further tonnage growth is expected for the rest of 2016 as more aircraft join the expanding fleet and more destinations are added to our network. The total freighter fleet will increase to 22 freighters by 2017.”
He describes the pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, changing trade patterns and e-commerce as the bright spots of global trade while perishables, garments and textiles are also growing.
Ogiermann tells ACW: “Pharmaceutical products are of great importance for us as we have been working hard to get trade lanes certified by the big shippers. We see tremendous growth in the pharmaceuticals, textiles and perishables air freight this year.”
Qatar is also putting its QR Charter product to good use, with Ogiermann commenting: “Increasing demand for large charters for the oil and gas, construction, airline, equestrian events and entertainment industries drove us to add a second B747F to our fleet and enhance our QR Charter product.”
Infrastructure projects means there is high levels of cargo demand, Ogiermann says: “With large-scale events such as Qatar Rail project and the Qatar 2022 World Cup on the horizon, the State of Qatar is seeing substantial growth across a wide range of infrastructure and industrial-related projects that stimulate demand for cargo-related services.”
Qatar Airways has expanded at an average of 40 per cent year-on-year and to keep up this growth, it has added new destinations and added more aircraft to its fleet. The airline has started six new freighter destinations this year to Dallas, Budapest, Prague, Ho Chi Minh City, New York and Halifax.
Passenger routes with bellyhold capacity have started to Los Angeles, Ras Al Khaimah, Sydney, Boston, Birmingham, Adelaide, Yerevan, Atlanta, Marrakech and Pisa.
Ogiermann says Qatar plans to become a major player in the Transpacific, Australian and South American markets and expanding the fleet will help it do this. “This major enhancement of our network is made possible by the constant growth of our fleet, which now includes ten Boeing 777F, eight Airbus 330F and two Boeing 747F aircraft, as well as the opening of its new European hub in Luxembourg.”
Based at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar Airways Cargo is at the crossroads of East and West, within six hours flying time of 80 per cent of the world’s population.
A second cargo terminal is being constructed at Hamad, which will provide an additional three million tonnes of capacity, bringing the total to four million when scheduled for completion in 2018. Further expansion will take place once this is completed eventually bringing the total capacity to seven million tonnes.
Ogiermann believes though innovations such as 3D printing, mode shift, security, in-shoring and new modes of air lift such as blimps are business threats, he does not see them as existential dangers.
He says: “Air cargo serves a specific function in the supply chain and as long as we keep offering an affordable, efficient and reliable service, this will remain the case.”
The industry may be facing challenges but Ogiermann remains confident about Qatar’s future, telling ACW: “Despite this challenging environment, our investments in qualified staff, a flexible freighter fleet, a well-planned network and visionary management, we are confident that with ongoing commitment to investment and expansion we can continue to overcome the challenges in this industry.”