Duty and responsibility
My, how times have changed! Two years ago ITJ editor Andreas Haug had a good conversation with Qatar Airways’ head of cargo in Johannesburg (see page 15 of ITJ 13-14 / 2019) – and now all that’s possible is an online chat. In the intervening two years the airline has grown impressively and become the world’s largest freight operator. A vision for the future is more important than ever before, however.
Mr Halleux, how did Qatar Airways Cargo fare in the pandemic year?
2020 was a very challenging year for the entire industry. We’d only just launched freighter services to Osaka, Campinas, Santiago and Bogotá when Covid-19 took the world by storm. The situation was extremely fluid and unpredictable, changing every day. Our teams coped thanks to their tenacity, versatility and resilience.
We transported more than 1.5 million t of cargo in 2020, or 4% more than we handled in the previous year; launched seven passenger and eight cargo stations last year; and improved our overall presence. According to the Iata figures our market share in ftk increased from 6.8% of the global freight performance before the pandemic to 8.96% in January 2021.
What did your company do better than your (regional) competitors?
We must remember that we’re all in this together. Every carrier across the world is doing its best to support world trade! We made the conscious decision to continue flying our freighters and even introduced ‘preighters’ (passenger freighters) and mini freighters to complement our network and support our customers, while simultaneously ensuring continuity in global trade.
Over and above this we also enhanced a number of our products, including adding sustainable SkyCell containers to our range of pharmaceuticals containers; and obtaining Iata CEIV Pharma certification for our Doha hub, our ground-handling partner, Qatar Aviation Services, as well as for its warehouse in Doha.
Along with strengthening our network, products and fleet we realised that we also have a duty and responsibility to give back to the communities that we serve.
Can you elaborate on this?
The idea of ‘WeQare’ came up when we became the market leader. We’re very concerned about the legacy we leave for future generations. We want to lead by example and raise the bar for sustainability in the industry through concrete action.
The programme focuses on the key pillars of environment, society, economy and culture, and is designed to adapt to meet requirements, address developments and target our priorities. The goal is to have a positive impact on our employees, the people of our industry and society at large.
How does this work in detail?
‘WeQare’ is a dynamic programme. Our employees launched ‘Chapter 1 – One Million Kilos’ last year, which offers a million kilogrammes of free cargo to our customers, which they can allocate to charities of their choice.
Together with ‘Chapter 2 – Rewild the Planet’, ‘WeQare’ is generating a lot of interest across the entire industry, as well as in our organisation. The programme will carry on indefinitely, so stay tuned for the meaningful third chapter, which is set to be announced soon.
Let’s return briefly to hard and software.
There may be very limited travel today, but the world hasn’t stopped trading. If last year was about surviving and remaining agile, this year will be all about learning and getting used to the ‘new normal’. In January we received three Boeing B777 freighters, bringing our fleet to 26 units. We’re well equipped with our belly-hold capacities, ‘preighters’ and mini freighters. We’re expecting several digitalisation initiatives to speed up this year.
Things have also speeded up since the blockade of Qatar by its neighbours was lifted.
Yes, that’s right. We operate 220 flights a week in the Middle East, with a combined capacity of more than 2,750 t. To and from Africa we offer 109 flights a week, with a combined capacity of more than 2,275 t each way. The resumption of flights over and to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt has also significantly reduced our costs again, which will in turn also benefit our customers.
Over and above this these three countries are also interesting markets in and of themselves. We serve them with GSA partners with excellent reputations in the markets and which share our values. They are Globe Air Cargo, an ECS Group subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates; Yusuf Bin Kanoo in Saudi Arabia; and Venus Air Cargo in Egypt.