Adding Brussels as a new destination is sort of filling a blank space on the route map, said Emirates SkyCargo’s Senior Vice-President Cargo Planning & Freighters Hiran Perera on the occasion of the company’s maiden passenger flight operated with the Boeing 777 aircraft on Friday, 5 September.
“Brussels has been an important cargo destination for Emirates ever since we started to serve Amsterdam in 1994. After all these years of trucking, we are delighted to be on-line. On top of that, we also have a long-standing relationship with Liege Airport, where we share capacity on TNT aircraft. In the past we even had our own aircraft. This is very important operation. Besides, TNT also flies some of our own aircraft in a ‘Crew/Maintenance/Insurance’-(CMI)-deal.”
Even if Emirates has now touched down in Brussels, Perera sees no reason to abandon the Liege operation. “It really makes sense to continue that, together with developing Brussels.” Bringing freighters to Brussels is something to consider as well, if there is a sound customer base to justify this. “It has to make commercial sense,” says Perera. In this respect he likes to refer to the operations in Switzerland, where Emirates serves both Zürich and Geneva with passenger aircraft, and as from 21 September - Basel with a freighter. “We go where the customers want us to go,” he says.
The direct flights to Brussels will no doubt divert some volume that used to be trucked to Amsterdam, to Brussels. “For outsized and heavy cargo we can still go to Amsterdam. Time-definite and temperature-controlled consignments can now be shipped directly. Taken together Brussels and Amsterdam offer a more complete and comprehensive operation.”
Even in a passenger configuration the Triple Seven is considered as a very cargo-friendly aircraft, offering a capacity of 20-plus tons per flight. With a daily connection, this could bring Brussels some 120 to 140 tons a week. And the prospects are promising. Both on the inbound and the outbound leg the cargo hold on the first roundtrip was full.
Inbound Emirates moves items like seafood and manufactured goods from the Subcontinent and Southeast-Asia, e.g. Vietnam. From Brussels the consignments are all kinds of industrial goods, pharmaceuticals and typical Belgian export products, like chocolates.
“Thanks to us the Belgian exporters will get a chance to find new markets,” Perera states. “This is also about growing business. Belgian companies will be able to find new markets in Australia, New-Zealand, Japan and Vietnam. Together we can draw that business.”
In his welcoming speech Thierry Aucoc, Senior Vice-President Commercial Operations Europe and Russian Federation had already mentioned that in 2013 1,504 Belgian companies had exported to the United Arab Emirates. The commercial exchange between Belgium and the UAE is estimated at some $4bn.
In Brussels Emirates has subcontracted its ground handling to Aviapartner. “This is not part of a wider European-wide contract,” says Hiran Perera. “We prefer to look at each airport individually and then opt for the handling company that suits our demands best.” On the commercial side, Emirates SkyCargo has set up its own organization, headed by Bob Vandamme, previously station manager of (off-line) Cathay Pacific Cargo. As for trucking, the bulk of the volume is handled by Jan de Rijk.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels