DALLAS – Year after year, Qatar Airways Cargo (QR) has made its way up the list as a major cargo airline. In a perfect duo with its passenger counterpart, Qatar Airways, it serves a global network of more than 60 freighter destinations and 150 passenger destinations, utilizing a mix of freighters, belly-hold passenger flights, and passenger freighters. What’s more to come?
Qatar Airways Cargo is stepping up its game, a new initiative that goes by “next generation” is in the making, aimed at making the entire air cargo process digital sustainable, and future ready.
Airways‘ Siddharth Ganesh carried out a brief discussion with Mr. Guillaume Halleux, Chief Officer Cargo of Qatar Airways Cargo on what markets the carrier thrives and what’s next for the fleet – we’re talking about a cargo airline that has an average fleet age less than most passenger airlines, a rather rare trend for air freight.
Here’s what Guillaume has to say.
SG : Qatar Airways Cargo, along with Qatar Airways, never stopped flying through the pandemic. What were the cargo load factors (CLF) like during this period as compared to right now?
GH : The pandemic disrupted global trade, and we did face our initial challenges. However, we continued flying freighters, and passenger freighters and even converted some of our passenger planes to mini freighters. We operated most flights, and we are proud to have been able to support world trade, charity organizations, and governments worldwide during that period.
The load factor was 7% higher during the pandemic period of 2020- 2021 compared to 2019, which can be attributed to the capacity shortage due to fewer passenger aircraft operating then. The remaining capacity became precious and all pockets of available capacity became valuable to us.
The FIFA World Cup is right around the corner, and Qatar Airways is ready to bring the fans. What are a few things special that QR cargo will be flying in during this season?
This is an exciting time not only for us but also for the entire state of Qatar. Indeed, it is a proud moment to be hosting the games. Given the enormity and popularity of the World Cup, we will be welcoming around 1.2 million visitors and this calls for a huge import of food.
Consequently, a number of local farmers are intensifying efforts to increase the production of various vegetables given the expected higher demand during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Other than the food, we are transporting stadium equipment, broadcasting equipment, promotional items, and fireworks.
As one of the fastest growing cargo fleets with an average age of less than most passenger airlines, how are your flight cycles, and would you fly the Jumbo jets this entire decade?
With our young, fuel and carbon-efficient fleet, we benefit from the ability to drive significantly higher utilization compared to most passenger fleets. Decisions on the fleet and the jumbo jets are part of a continuous review process of our fleet requirements based on sustainability, efficiency, and market dynamics.
As the launch customer for 34 brand new 777-8F, would they replace the Jumbo jets and part of 777F or complement it since the current ones aren’t as old?
The Boeing 777-8F provides us with an 18% higher payload, and the operating cost is significantly lower in the range of 20% per tonne. Having the right number of freighters available to us is of strategic importance. Hence, the order for the B777-8Fs will arrive in a phased manner from 2027 onwards.
We envision a gradual transition from the current fleet towards the 777-8F, the 777F fleet is very young and we still have deliveries planned. Initially, we will be flying a hybrid fleet, and based on market conditions we could see a gradual transition towards a more common platform for the long term.
In general, how are the balance loads between outbound and inbound traffic, especially in countries where the export/import proportion remains highly variable?
In general, exports and imports for Qatar Airways Cargo’s top 20 relevant markets are on balance. However, it varies significantly from market to market: markets, where exports outweigh imports, include perishable-driven markets such as Oslo and Nairobi, as well as manufacturing hubs such as Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
What are some of your crucial markets at the moment and those to come?
The crucial markets for Qatar Airways Cargo are the export markets of Northeast Asia – such as Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Seoul, and Hanoi; along with the import markets of Europe – Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris.
In the future, from the export perspective, we expect emerging markets in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam and Indonesia to be crucial markets, as they increase their manufacturing capabilities. As purchasing power grows in Central and West Africa, those import markets will also be crucial in the coming years.
Perhaps, an introduction to the Qatar Airways Cargo “The Next generation” program?
With the launch of “The Next Generation,” Qatar Airways Cargo is defining its role in the air cargo industry. It is not about the younger generation, but about bringing a new perspective to everyone involved in the air cargo value chain.
The vision is to take a fresh innovative approach to the business of air cargo, to develop existing talent and attract new ones and tap the digital potential to solve everyday pain points. It is, above all, a complete corporate mindset shift. Digital enhancements, new products, a new website, and many more initiatives will be rolled out under The Next Generation.
The Next Generation approach will be reflected across our network and operations, be it in technology, sustainability, diversity, the new generation of employees joining our company, our products and services, and how we approach our business in general.
Featured image: Mr. Guillaume Halleux. Photo: Qatar Airways Cargo