The first five months of 2017 have yielded volumes growth of 36 per cent for Brussels Airlines Cargo with African trade lanes driving the performance.
Last month alone, in May, it saw a 46 per cent uplift and the strong performance is being put down to three factors.
Vice president of cargo, Alban Francois (pictured below) explains: “Firstly, we harvest the results of our new commercial strategy – improved relationship with our clients and development of our product portfolio. This resulted in being able to understand and better fulfil the needs of our customers and attract additional clients.
“Secondly, we have implemented and optimised a capacity tool allowing a significant increase of payload while reducing considerably the risk of offloads. The third reason is linked to our 10th Airbus A330 and launch of our new Mumbai route in March.”
Francois says the carrier’s main market Africa is a key factor as in both directions it has seen 30 per cent growth, while pharma, general cargo, perishables and mail and express courier shipments are driving performance.
He explains: “If you take into account that Africa counts for over 75 per cent, we can be very satisfied with this result. Also the westbound BRU-North America sector is doing very well (+90 per cent from January-April linked to the YYZ (Toronto) route launched in April last year) mainly driven by pharma and general cargo.
“Last, but not least our new Mumbai service, launched in April, is in terms of cargo volumes (pharma, general cargo and perishables) doing better than budgeted in both directions.
“Finally, although having a smaller share, the volumes intra-Europe also evolved very nicely (+70 per cent from January-April in a shrinking market) linked to the strong performance of our courier service.”
Investments made by the airline and Brussels Airport in the pharma segment have led to a surge in shipments, and use of the airside pharma transporter has improved handling.
Francois says: “The pharma transporter is filling a gap and allows us to control and guarantee the temperature of the pharma shipment at all times. It is about walking the talk. Before we couldn’t always guarantee the same temperature during the transport from the warehouse to our aircraft.
“This is now something from the past as the pharma transporter offers us the perfect temperature control solution as it will be a standard product used for all pharma shipments. We are very happy with this investment and so are our pharma clients.
“In addition, we are proud with the fact the airside pharma transporter is the concrete result of a joint undertaking of shippers, handlers, forwarders, airport and airlines.”
Fleet upgrades have also boosted cargo and this year it added an additional A330 used on the five weekly service to Mumbai.
It will also replace its A330 fleet soon as seven of the 10 aircraft in use today will be replaced from the end of 2018 onwards by the newer A330-300 with a better performance (higher payload) and range. This will mean fewer weight restriction issues and it will be able to accommodate up to 40 per cent more volumes.
The Air Cargo Belgium community organisation has boosted air cargo in Brussels and continues to grow, and Francois says it has resulted in much better understanding and cooperation between airlines, handlers, forwarders and customers.
“Since the ACB initiative was launched we have seen a serious efficiency improvement and we work together on a much needed further digitisation of the sector.
“One of the best improvements realised by Air Cargo Belgium so far has been the introduction of a cloud application that allows all stakeholders to share data and communicate better with and between each other,” he notes.
“Air Cargo Belgium offers the opportunities to move forward to the next step of air cargo as it offers a single platform of exchange between the community and key stakeholders such as Customs and the sanitary authorities, which allow to further streamline, optimise and simplify processes.”
Digitalisation and simplifying of processes is an important part of the business strategy to remove, as Francois puts it, the “old-fashioned administrative burdens”.
Brussels Airlines Cargo is joining the eAWB360 initiative at Brussels Airport to become by 1 October an eAWB community, which is being driven by the Air Cargo Belgium eFreight Working Group which Francois is leading.
He adds: “Brussels Airlines Cargo is also participating in the BRUcloud (community sharing of data) and work in the scope of Pharma.aero to set-up the near real-time transfer of key parameters through the chain in order to anticipate any corrective action.”
Internally, he says the carrier has invested in digital processes to deal with irregularities and claims by implementing a ‘Customer Centric Improvement Program’ where operational improvements are implemented based on irregularity analysis.
And he notes the willingness to digitise processes is one of the reasons it has selected a new handler at Brussels Airport in the shape of Swissport, as Francois says they have made and are making serious digitalisation efforts, which allow it to further integrate data within its own digital tools.
But there is a major challenge for air cargo in Brussels due to noise regulations at Brussels Airport during the night and early morning and Francois says: “This is not good for our industry. We really hope a balanced and sustainable solution, supported by all stakeholders, can be found very soon.”