“We’ve established clear focal points, for example on routes from Kenya and Bangladesh to Europe” is Rainer Müller’s answer to our question concerning what differentiates Saudia Cargo from other airlines. Its home market is rather challenging, however.
What’s the ‘breaking news’ from Saudia Cargo, Mr Müller?
The latest information is that we’re set to launch full-charter services for pharmaceutical goods from India to South America as well as South Africa. This is one of Saudia Cargo’s new products.
Is your business going well, overall?
January was a good month for us, yes. Our volumes as well as our revenues continued to grow – not as strongly as in November and December, of course, but nevertheless a bit like in the rest of 2017.
Last year was a very good year for us, especially the second half. I don’t think we, nor the industry at large, will see the same double-digit growth rates again in 2018. I nevertheless believe that these latest developments are more than short-term surges, because the e-commerce segment, which continues to improve strongly, is now well-established.
So there are great opportunities. Where, in contrast, do you see the dangers?
I read an interesting statistic yesterday; in the next ten years, main-deck capacities are set to grow much less strongly than cargo space on passenger units. So airlines, forwarders and sales platforms will have to make sure that a ‘Cyber Monday’ does not take place everywhere simultaneously, with short-term demand shooting up by 400%.
With what equipment does Saudia Cargo meet demand?
We have 17 full-freighters in our fleet, 13 Boeing B747s and four B777s, and also market the belly-hold capacities of the 127 passenger units in our parent company Saudi Arabian Airlines’ fleet. Half of these units are widebodies.
In a discussion at Air Cargo India on airfreight’s role in global trade you underlined the need for an intense dialogue between the individual links in the supply chain. What are law-makers’ roles in this process?
I think they’ve largely done their infrastructure and regulatory homework. Now it is more down to the other stakeholders to keep the e-commerce promises that have been made. If the air cargo industry doesn’t contribute to a massive delivery-time reduction – when demand is high due dates can be up to 14 days away – well, then you can just as well pop down to your corner shop to get what you need.
What is Saudi Arabia doing for the logistics and airfreight segments?
The country has been implementing its ‘Vision 2030’ for 18 months now. It covers every major field in the kingdom. Logistics is expected to come up to standards reached in other countries; airfreight up to those attained by other modes of transport. The state is creating the right framework for this.
How important is your home market for Saudia Cargo?
We have a large home market, with approximately 30 million inhabitants; much greater than other regional providers. But they’re spread over 2 million sqkm. As the flag carrier we have to face these challenges.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Saudi Arabia is a huge country – but it doesn’t have a proper centre. The capital Riyadh, the Red Sea port of Jeddah, the Persian Gulf gateway Dammam and Medina are the four metropolises that we have to serve efficiently.