Thriving through regional diversification


Chapman Freeborn, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has secured an ever-growing global footprint by embracing regional diversification. Recognising the need to adapt to a changing industry landscape, the company has strategically expanded its portfolio beyond traditional charter services, with the input of on-the-ground experts who can shape the direction of its operations.

“It’s about being able to adapt to that shifting situation as quickly as possible. That’s the nature of our business. We need to be agile,” Reto Hunziker, Chapman Freeborn’s CEO Europe, explained. “That’s the kind of flexibility and expertise we have in our organisation.”

Dedicated and diverse

As the industry evolved over the years, Chapman Freeborn recognised the need to diversify beyond its core charter services.

“We started as a charter company, but the world changed, the environment changed, and technology changed,” Hunziker said. “We started to diversify early because we realised that, if we were focusing on traditional chartering only, it wouldbecome more difficult.”

While chartering remains a significant part of its business, the company strategically diversified into niche sectors, such as heavy and outsized cargo, live animal transportation, and even small parcel deliveries. This wide-ranging portfolio has allowed Chapman Freeborn to tap into new markets and broaden its service offerings.

“Traditional charter broker operations are still a big part of our business, but we’ve diversified into Magma Aviation, the On Board Courier service and more,” Hunziker said.

The company understood that relying solely on chartering would become increasingly challenging due to industry advancements and changing customer preferences. By diversifying its services, Chapman Freeborn mitigated risks and balanced its revenue streams. The company is continuously exploring new niches and looking for ways to provide comprehensive solutions.

“We are always looking for opportunities to do business in niche areas,” Hunziker explained. “What we’ve tried to do is have a one-stop shop. That’s the secret to Chapman Freeborn’s success: finding that niche that other competitors aren’t able to offer.”

With this offering and its range of regional CEOs, Chapman Freeborn has built a global reach that has made it the player it is today. By empowering dedicated regional teams, the company has achieved faster progress in certain countries, adapting more effectively to diverse cultures, mentalities, and market conditions.

“There’s more ownership and more dedication,” Hunziker said. “Previously,  we were managing the world from London and Frankfurt, so we are making good progress. After just six months, it’s clear it was the right thing to do.”

Benefiting from its knowledge, Chapman Freeborn sees potential for growth and expansion in various markets. While Europe remains a focal point, the company acknowledges the need to strengthen its presence in underserved regions such as Africa and Latin America. With a dedicated team of experts and a focus on adaptability, Chapman Freeborn aims to seize opportunities in these markets and cater to the evolving demands of customers.

“Industries are shifting and the verticals are shifting,” Hunziker stated. “We still have some markets to reach, for example, Africa will be an important area in the future.”

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Evolving expectations

Demand patterns in the airfreight industry fluctuate in response to economic conditions. Chapman Freeborn recognises the correlation between economic trends and charter demand. During economic upturns, charter services become more attractive, while economic downturns can significantly impact demand. To mitigate this risk, Chapman Freeborn’s diversified portfolio allows it to navigate through market fluctuations and balance its exposure across different sectors, reducing dependency on a single market segment.

“In the charter business, customers aren’t looking for a traditional carrier. It’s normally for the more specialised cargo, so they want to know they’re getting their money’s worth,” Hunziker explained. “They want to feel comfortable with a reliable partner. It’s not just flying from A to B, it really needs experts all around the world to react swiftly when needed.”

As customer expectations evolve, Chapman Freeborn strives to add value and differentiate itself from competitors. In an industry driven by modernisation and sustainability, the company emphasises the importance of offering enhanced value and sustainable solutions. It leverages digitalisation and encourages out-of-the-box thinking to improve operational efficiency and meet the evolving needs of customers.

“These are the sorts of areas of evolution in the industry that customers look for,” Hunziker said. “It’s vital to add value and that’s what I’m telling our team every day. The key is thinking out of the box and using new technology.”

READ: Chapman Freeborn ACMI announces five new cross-regional leasable aircraft

Entering the digital era

The emergence of digital charter brokers has created new challenges and opportunities for traditional charter brokers like Chapman Freeborn. While the charter business faces increasing pressure due to airline flexibility and customer demands for cost-effectiveness, Chapman Freeborn’s emphasis on value-added services, expertise, and global reach sets it apart.

“Everybody wants to save money. Everybody wants to increase profits,” Hunziker highlighted, explaining how that’s where new steps to minimise expenses and streamline operations come into play. That’s why the company understands that adaptability and continuous evolution are essential to staying competitive in the digital era.

As Chapman Freeborn celebrates its 50th anniversary, the company remains focused on the future. In the short term, it plans to expand its services in Europe, continuing to capitalise on new opportunities within the regional market.

“Hopefully we’ll be celebrating another 50 years,” Hunziker said, pointing to how Chapman Freeborn aims to further develop its cargo capacity management department, which has shown promising growth since its inception, helping the company to stay agile and provide valuable solutions to its global clientele.

“We started with two people in Europe. We’re now at 15. We’re looking forward to further expansion and embracing new opportunities,” Hunziker stated.