Alongside maintaining its cargo network to a greater extent than most carriers over the past year, Qatar Airways has also moved forward with several freight digitalisation initiatives such as Robotic Process Automation for shipment tracking, IATA’s One Record pilot project, and the rollout of ebookings, highlights chief cargo officer Guillaume Halleux
Our resilience and adaptability have been key traits that have helped us in our revival during the COVID-19 pandemic last year and enabled us to move forward despite the enormous challenges.
As countries try to curb the spread of the second or third wave of the virus, while adapting to the new normal, we are already seeing the effects across the world. We are continuing to operate our scheduled freighter flights, passenger freighters, cargo charters and belly-hold flights to ensure global trade continuity.
As part of our strategy for rationalisation and optimisation of our fleet, we took delivery of three brand new Boeing 777 freighters. The Airbus A330 freighters have exited our fleet – we retained them until the end of 2020 to cater to the growing capacity requirements, while waiting for the arrival of the three Boeing 777 freighters. Our current fleet that consists of 24 B777Fs and two B747-8Fs will enable us to support the worldwide demand for air cargo.
Reversal of the blockade
The opening up of borders with neighbouring country the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has allowed us to resume air freight and air travel. We have also started flights to the Arab Republic of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Shortening routes is a huge benefit and the reversal of the blockade has significantly reduced our costs; so this will benefit our customers as well.
“The reversal of the blockade has significantly reduced our costs”
Qatar Airways is rebuilding its passenger network, which today stands at over 120 destinations (1,500 weekly belly-hold flights), and we recently launched flights to new destination Seattle. This is good news for cargo in terms of belly capacity as that is our business model.
We have also made enhancements to our products and solutions, eg: our hub in Doha is now IATA Pharma CEIV certified; this came at the right time when we are handling the logistics around the COVID-19 vaccine.
While we are keeping supply chains in place by working with freight forwarders and other stakeholders to overcome challenges as best as we can, we also want to ensure our operations and development is sustainable. We want to give back to communities we serve and make a difference. Sustainability will be top on our agenda this year as we introduce more chapters in our WeQare programme. We recently launched Rewild the Planet, Chapter 2 of our WeQare programme to show our commitment for conservation of wildlife. More chapters will be launched this year. Good deeds have a ripple effect and we are indeed receiving very positive feedback on WeQare; it shows that people in cargo really care and want to do something positive that will impact the world.
Digitalisation is also a key area of focus for us this year as it is set to bring a massive change to our fragmented industry. It is the need of the hour. Though the cargo industry is known for being behind our passenger counterpart, we are now taking huge steps to bring about digitalisation in our industry. Our aircraft, physical infrastructure and warehousing capabilities are all improving as we look to automation and design improvements. We are moving towards more systems that allow for dynamic pricing, automatic quotations, robotic integration and improved reporting.
“We are moving towards more systems that allow for dynamic pricing, automatic quotations, robotic integration and improved reporting”
COVID-19 has fast-tracked the demand for digitalisation and we have introduced several digitalisation initiatives such as Robotic Process Automation for shipment tracking, Salesforce (Service Cloud), IATA’s One Record Pilot project with Champ – and ebookings via WebCargo by Freightos, which has gone live in selected countries on 7 February 2021. Through WebCargo bookings, forwarders in these countries will be able to conduct real-time eBookings, access live rates and see available capacity with us. We are actively promoting digitalisation as we see the many benefits our customers will reap.
In spite of the hurdles and challenges that the pandemic presented, we have done the highest flying of any airline in the world and it has allowed us to maintain sufficient cargo capacity – which was good for our customers as they could continue their activities. As a result, Qatar Airways Cargo’s market share in CTKs, as published by IATA, increased from 6.8% pre-COVID to 8.6% by the end of 2020.
The cargo workers worldwide truly deserve our praise; what they have done in 2020 is beyond amazing – they have been truly exceptional.