From adopting the e-AWB, transporting special cargo like lithium batteries, huge pipes, cars, helicopter cabins, serving 190 destinations in more than 60 countries worldwide, Cathay Pacific Airways has come a long way. Rajesh Menon, Regional Head of Cargo– South Asia, Middle East & Africa at Cathay Pacific Airways, in an exclusive interview with Ritika Arora Bhola, talks about the importance of the Indian market, new freighter services started by the airline, and global vital trends driving the air freight industry.
Kindly tell us about Cathay’s freighters coming to India. How much revenue the airline makes from the Indian market?
The cargo division of Cathay Pacific is one of the most important business units for Cathay Pacific. Our performance for the cargo business, particularly in India, has been healthy. We have recorded a 2.2 per cent tonnage growth for exports in the year 2019. In fact, owing to the increase in demand in the region, we have deployed ad-hoc freighters on timely basis to meet our customer’s needs.
We believe it is of utmost importance to provide our customers with a one-stop-solution, and we are able to do so with our robust network. We operate out of six major airports in India- Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata, and have a total of 49 passenger flights and 26 freighter services per week. On the basis of demand, we often operate three ad-hoc services out of Chennai, amounting to a total of 29 freighters.
Can you please tell us about your specialised cargo segments? What kind of cargo Cathay moves to and from the country?
Our expertise include carrying odd sized shipments that include huge pipes, cars, helicopter cabins, infrastructure parts and medical equipment with our nose door operations on the Boeing 747 freighters. Cathay Pacific is the only service provider in the market with expertise of handling seven categories of ‘Special Products’ cargo.
We also uplift a lot of perishable and pharmaceutical products for this region. We have collaborated with Pharma.Aero to provide customers with better solutions for quality transportation and proficient handling of these valuable products.
We are also one of the few airlines globally to be able to carry lithium-ion batteries on our freighter aircrafts. This has been made possible due to the introduction of the Fire Containment Bags which acts as a safety solution for this product. Considering the growing market for this product, the Fire Containment Bags are available at 51 of our freighter destinations, including India. To further meet the demand of the customers, we are also exploring new solutions for bigger battery sizes and higher quantities, such as those used in the electric car industry.
What’s the current size of Indian pharma exports dealt by Cathay Pacific?
PharmaLIFT is one of the most important products for us and handling Pharma products is one of our USPs.
India is a big market for Cathay Pacific, especially when it comes to shipments of pharmaceutical products. Pharma products alone have accounted for over 3.4 per cent of the business in 2019. Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai have always had large number of pharma shipments and this continues to grow.
How has the Indian market evolved for Cathay Pacific till date? How would you strategise on your offerings in the coming years?
There has been a strong focus of the Indian government on digital developments, and improving infrastructure. Alongside, initiatives that support logistics and government regulations have all contributed to the growth of the industry and will continue to do so. With the simplification and modernisation of export and import processes, introduction of several provisions that accelerate clearance of goods along with seamless cooperation between the shippers and customs have not only helped us but the entire sector. All the initiatives that the government has taken focus on the improvement of the industry, thus ensuring we are meeting the country’s vision of being on par with the global air cargo standards.
Keeping in mind India’s vision, Cathay Pacific is also updating and advancing itself to provide its customers with top-notch services and solutions. In the recent past, we implemented the 100 per cent e-Airway bill (e-AWB) across the country, thus making all our processes digital and contributing to create a paperless environment in the air freight industry. Adopting e-AWB also helped us reduce overall costs and bring in increased operational efficiency and accuracy when dealing with customers. Besides, we are in process of developing a digital platform for the freight forwarders that makes the booking process simpler, convenient and with a faster turn-around time.
What do you see as the vital global trends in the air cargo industry considering the last financial year?
The cargo industry is extremely volatile and is dependent on many factors like the economies of countries, geo-political situations, consumer confidence, etc. According to IATA figures released for the global air freight markets, even though there is a dip recorded in the air cargo sector early 2019, the market is expected to steadily grow owing to factors such as strong demand for manufacturing exports and increased penetration of advanced technologies. A tremendous increase in growth is expected in the industry owing to the E-commerce industry which is expected boost the air cargo demand globally.