Wolfgang Meier Joins Silk Way Airlines

The former Volga-Dnepr / AirBridgeCargo leading executive takes on new responsibilities within Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Group, becoming a strategic consultant to the Chairman of the group.

Wolfgang Meier becomes Silk Way Group’s strategic mastermind  -  photo: hs
Wolfgang Meier becomes Silk Way Group’s strategic mastermind - photo: hs

As long-time head of marketing and development at Volga-Dnepr / AirBridgeCargo, Wolfgang can be considered an expert in both freight charter operations as well as cargo line-haul flights. In a recent farewell-address to the Russian conglomerate’s staff, he confirmed his departure but made no indication where he would go from there. Meanwhile, the die is cast as information received, confirmed to CargoForwarder Global. Accordingly, Meier will take on the role as main advisor of Zaur Akhundov, the Chairman of the Azeri Silk Way Holding. 

Growing freighter fleet
Although not much is known outside the airline about the business strategy and fleet plans, sources confirmed to CargoForwarder Global a very forward thinking approach to position the holding company’s subsidiaries on the map, namely their two cargo arms, Silk Way Airlines and Silk Way West Airlines. Together, they operate a freighter fleet comprising 24 units consisting mostly of Antonovs and Ilyushins, with the West offspring operating five Boeing 747Fs: two -400Fs and three -8Fs. Last year, a deal was sealed to add three more B-8Fs to the fleet. Simultaneously, the state owned Azeri airline announced an order for 10 Ukraine-built Antonov An-178 freighters, capable of uplifting 18 tons of cargo each. Although the Antonov’s range is quite limited, capable of flying only 1,000 kilometers at full load and 4,000 km with half tonnage, they reasonably complement the existing fleet of larger freighters. Having said this, their main role will be that of feeder aircraft, to link Azerbaijan’s main gateway Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport with regional destinations, thus enabling a fast flow of goods to and from the Azeri capital’s hinterlands.

Silk Way Holding President Zaur Akhundov
Silk Way Holding President Zaur Akhundov

Responsibilities and tasks still remain in the dark
At present, not much is known about Wolfgang’s future tasks. A direct approach by CargoForwarder Global requesting him to line out his upcoming endeavors has understandably remained unanswered to this hour.
But when looking at Silk Way Airlines’ overall situation it can be assumed that one of his main assignments will be advising the carrier’s top management to fine-tune the network. This consists of local, regional and intercontinental line-haul services that need to be knit together more tightly.
Another field to plough through is implementing a convincing marketing strategy that make the freight carrier better known outside its home turf. Some market contenders consider Silk Way as a sleeping giant; others have hardly heard the carrier’s name so far.
Thirdly, Silk Way Airlines’ traditional dependency on transporting equipment for the oil industry to secure the uninterrupted running of the many wells located within sight of Baku and enlarge the product portfolio together with the network expansion are additional challenges Wolfgang will be confronted with.
Last but not least, he hopefully succeeds in convincing the holding’s president Akhundov to end his and his top management’s tight-lipped policy and to communicate more openly. Given the expansion strategy and growing importance of the Azeri cargo carrier, this change of attitude would be very desirable.

Heiner Siegmund

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