Exclusive - New Boeing 777s Become Swiss WorldCargo’s New Contender

Swiss is about to roll over its fleet, getting rid of their A340-300s and replacing them with Boeing 777-300ERs starting early next year. On average, the new aircraft offer 15 percent more lower deck capacity compared to the aging Airbus long-haul variant. On some intercontinental routes it’s even up to 30 percent.

The new Boeing 777s up Swiss WorldCargo’s transport capacity considerably  /  company courtesy
The new Boeing 777s up Swiss WorldCargo’s transport capacity considerably / company courtesy

At first glance this is good news for the air freight unit of Switzerland’s flag-bearing carrier. Upping transport capacity by about one third on many intercontinental routes served by Swiss is a clear message to the market. As well as the carrier’s cargo sales staff because it will be their job to fill the holds of the aircraft that are capable of uplifting 25 tons per flight or even more, depending on passenger loads and luggage.

Sales staff comes under pressure
It is no wonder that Ashwin Bhat, who will succeed Oliver Evans next October as helmsman of the cargo division, becomes very concerned when speaking about the consequences the deployment of the Triple Sevens will cause for him and his entire cargo team. “It’s a huge challenge particularly for our sales people because it is in their hands to acquire additional shipments to fill the lower deck compartments of our new flagship aircraft.”
Six Triple Sevens are slated to enter the fleet next year with 3 more to come in 2017.

Particularly unbalanced routes give Ashwin a headache like New York to Zurich. “On the westbound leg I don’t see any problems because there is enormous market demand but the way back from JFK to Zurich will become extremely challenging.”
This is true for other routes as well. Therefore, maintaining current market share and the carrier’s 85 percent payload utilization would already be a major success, he modestly adds.  

Ashwin Bhat  /  picture: hs
Ashwin Bhat / picture: hs

Hohmeister’s high expectations
Meanwhile, CEO Harry Hohmeister puts up the pressure on Ashwin Bhat and his team by stating that cargo is an indispensable source of revenue, contributing 12 percent on average to the carrier’s annual turnover. “On intercontinental flights it’s actually more than 15 percent,” applauds Herr Hohmeister. Needless to say he expects to maintain or possibly increase these figures.

Structural changes help enlarging the footprint in America
In view of the upcoming fleet modernization program initiated by the integration of the 777s, Swiss WorldCargo had already prompted some organizational changes, particularly in the U.S. “Under the overall responsibility of Jack Lampinski, our Senior Director of Area Management Americas, we basically regionalized North America,” indicates Ashwin. According to the new structure Canada together with the Northeast of the USA have become a separate sales unit, so did the Midwest, West and the Southeast of the States, the latter being responsible also for the biz in Latin America. “All online stations such as Los Angeles, New York, Montreal or Chicago are served by our own staff, whereas at offline locations we cooperate with different general sales agents, who are steered by Swiss Cargo’s nearest office.”

Swiss Chief Harry Hohmeister  /  source: hs
Swiss Chief Harry Hohmeister / source: hs

Additional biz has to be identified
“With this organizational framework backing us we feel well equipped to master the new challenges that will be caused by the Triple Sevens once the aircraft have become part of the fleet,” Mr. Bhat resumes.
Now it’s mainly up to the sales staff and the numerous GSA’s that cooperate with Swiss WorldCargo to analyze the data provided by their individual markets, to find out which products fit the carrier’s portfolio best and on what specific routes they are moved before approaching any potential client.

Aiming at new heights
No doubt, “the pressure is there,” admits Mr. Bhat, pointing out that in his eyes maintaining the current load factor would already be a success once the Triple Sevens are in operation.
Just holding the achieved market position doesn’t seem to be enough for Ashwin. “Oliver paved the way by creating an entrepreneurial culture that is almost unique in this industry. In view of his impending departure it is now our responsibility to tackle the new challenges head-on, creatively and with self-confidence, taking Swiss WorldCargo to the next level.”

Heiner Siegmund  /  Michael Taweel

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