In 2021, global air cargo revenues were more than double those in 2019, and provided an important income stream for airlines. As we return to some level of normality, 2022 is also proving so far to be a strong year, with cargo throughput in the first half of the year exceeding pre-pandemic levels; and although there are a variety of future ‘headwinds’ expected to impact aviation and the global economy, the outlook for the air cargo industry remains strong.
At Oman Airports, the cargo team alongside all of our business partners in the cargo community, have been instrumental in accommodating and supporting a broad range of regular dedicated freighter flights over the past two years, and during this time Muscat’s cargo community handled a range of flights by airlines such as Cargolux, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates and DHL.
As a result, the statistics at Muscat have remained strong throughout the pandemic and the figures for the first half of 2022 show air cargo throughput 67% higher than the same period in 2021 and it has recovered around 63% of 2019 volume for the same period.
Investment in Facilities and Service
Two of the key drivers of cargo growth in the last twelve months have been in perishables and pharmaceuticals; both being sectors that demand efficient service delivery and have specific handling requirements.
In 2021, Muscat International Airport was the first airport in the world to simultaneously receive IATA’s CEIV Pharma and CEIV Fresh accreditation, which ensures international and national compliance to time-sensitive product integrity, and the provision of service excellence in both sectors. The investment made by Oman Airports and the wider cargo community in training and focus in these areas, alongside the accreditation and the service provided, is clearly being recognised by airlines, integrators and freight forwarders as we see cargo throughput growth.
The pre-pandemic investments made in the cargo facilities at Muscat and Salalah airports, have also proved a significant factor in supporting recent growth. The state of the art facilities at the two airports, all opened within the last five years, provide the appropriate environment to handle all types of air cargo. These investments have ensured that air cargo is recognised as a key element within the Oman Vision 2040. The cargo team have been working closely with stakeholders and partners across the country to highlight and develop improvements in the air logistics ecosystem within Oman, ensuring alignment with all partners, and providing further opportunities for our air cargo partners to access the Omani market; thus supporting the delivery of Oman’s strategic vision.
Innovation in service delivery
The importance of a resilient and efficient air cargo ecosystem, is recognised by IATA in their current strategic focus, and resilience and efficiency are also key pillars for the cargo strategy at Oman Airports. Working with all partners, focus is being maintained on providing an efficient and secure service, but also to explore new and innovative methods that enhance and continuously improve the service offer to our cargo customers, such as developing seamless and automated cargo processes that streamline and enhance the operation.
As always, the cargo team continue to build and develop relationships across the cargo community within Oman, and also throughout the region and globally, enhancing the benefits of Oman as a transhipment point for intercontinental cargo, and as an efficient access point for cargo into Oman and the Middle East. In addition, the incentive schemes and marketing support that were developed to support the business over the past two years are being maintained, and alongside low operating costs and efficient service, they will provide an attractive value based proposition for air cargo providers.
Not only is the outlook for the global air cargo sector strong, but also for air cargo at Oman Airports. With air cargo proving itself to be critical in serving markets and products that demand speed and reliability, and for higher value goods that are time sensitive and economically perishable, Oman Airports is well placed to support these sectors. Working closely together and collaborating with our partners across the wider cargo community, the target is to continue to attract new cargo business from airlines, integrators, forwarders and handlers, as well as supporting our existing providers to grow their operations through additional services and expanded facilities. The ongoing efforts to launch and operate freighter/s are promising and will contribute a major leap to the regional air cargo business.
The cargo team will be communicating all of the positive developments and the significant potential for cargo in Oman at both IATA’s World Cargo Symposium in London at the end of September, and also the TIACA Air Cargo Forum in Miami in November, where we look forward to engaging with new and existing industry friends and colleagues, and continuing to drive growth in air cargo, maximising the positive impact air cargo has on the Omani economy and further enhancing our reputation in the global market.