Currently, the European market is contributing almost one third to the Doha-headquartered cargo carrier’s annual revenues. It could be more if the airline were conceded additional traffic rights by local governments. CargoForwarder Global asks QR Cargo’s helmsman Uli Ogiermann his views on operational issues, new products, and changes in handling and sales.
Q: Uli, your fleet of freighter aircraft is constantly growing. This leads to the question whether you intend to up the frequencies on your Frankfurt to Doha route, as our information is that the
aircraft are presently fully loaded?
A: Currently, we operate seven Boeing 777 freighters to Frankfurt each week. On the passenger side as well, there are double daily 787 flights to Frankfurt.
Yes, the flights are fully loaded as Germany is an important market for us.
Currently, our traffic rights are limited to seven weekly freighter services to Germany.
Q: The German air freight market is dominant in Europe. So why not consider serving more destinations there with freighter or passenger aircraft? Stuttgart, Cologne, Dusseldorf, or Hamburg for example.
A: Currently, we are serving these markets via our trucking services from Frankfurt. There is, for the moment a fixed number of passenger and freighter rights or services to Germany.
Q: Would Frankfurt-Hahn be any option to be added to your freighter network? As they also offer attractive rates and a good infrastructure.
A: We have been operating to Hahn and still use Hahn airport as an alternative.
The main reason to operate to HHN – Frankfurt-Hahn was due to night slots available in HHN compared to FRA. Now that we have increased fleet strength with our 777-200F aircraft, we are able to re-time our flights to arrive FRA before the curfew/closure.
From October 2013, we have upgraded our freighters to Frankfurt from A330F to 777F and increased the frequency to daily flight out of Frankfurt, thereby providing convenience to our customers.
Q: Liege Airport officials are optimistic to become QR Cargo’s main European gateway. Are these hopes justified, or are there still others in the running?
A: We started operating freighters to Liege in April last year. Currently, we operate four freighters to Liege per week, two frequencies operated by the 777 freighter and two by the A330F. Liege is definitely an important freighter destination in our European network.
Q: Looking at the broad picture – how much does Europe contribute to your overall figures in tonnage and sales?
A: YTD April 2013 to January 2014, contribution by European sectors (excluding UK & Ireland) to the network was 30.9%
Q: European airlines often complain about unfair competition practiced by Gulf carriers whom they feel are highly subsidized. What’s your view on these allegations?
A: Please refer to the view which was expressed by Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al-Baker in Gulf Times published on 6 February 2014 (see below)
Q: Are you in a position to mention or elaborate on possible QR cargo plans for Joint Ventures or upcoming cooperation with other carriers?
A: We recently signed a long-term commercial agreement with IAG Cargo to purchase capacity on Qatar Airways-operated air cargo freighters, effective from 1 May 2014.
Qatar Airways will operate five 777F flights a week between Hong Kong and London, via Doha, on behalf of IAG Cargo, providing continuity of service for IAG Cargo customers. The growth in the cargo market has fuelled Qatar Airways’ massive expansion in this business and this exchange with IAG Cargo allows us both to deliver optimal level of service, convenience and flexibility to our worldwide cargo customers. Hong Kong is a key market on our route map, and so we have continually made investments in the capacity operating on the route.
Qatar Airways Cargo has always had a strong vision, helping it chart a clear path forward in a changing market. This approach in tandem with continuous investments in new technologies, products and services as well as resources has enabled us to distinguish our business and stay ahead despite volatile market dynamics. In January this year, we launched two premium services that will optimize the transportation of time and temperature sensitive goods, including high-value pharmaceutical products and perishables.
Q: Most recently you set up your own sales and handling units in some markets and stopped cooperating with GSA‘s. Why?
A: On December 1st 2013, Qatar Airways Cargo launched dedicated Customer Service and Sales teams for the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and just recently, we launched the same for Germany. These newly dedicated self-handling services will enable us to boost growth in these key markets.
Thank you for this interview.
No unfair subsidies, says Al-Baker
In the Gulf Times published report QR’s CEO Al-Baker maintained that neither his airline nor any other major Gulf carrier is benefitting from governmental subsidies, thus not distorting international competition.
He went on to add: “It is not true that we are subsidized. The fact of the matter is that the highest fuel price we pay as an airline is in Qatar. We are fighting for cheaper fuel prices, so that we can expand and that other airlines that operate to and from Doha can benefit.”
Asked whether the rapid growth of the big three Gulf carriers were rattling the European airlines, Al-Baker stated: “You must understand they are also growing in the phase of our growth. So where exactly is the problem?”