01OCT19 saw a cargo-focused premiere at Salzburg Airport. Together with the Austrian and Bavarian Federal Logistics Associations (BVL Oesterreich and BVL Regionalgruppe Suedbayern), Salzburg Airport co-hosted their first “SOTA - State of The Art” event entitled “Salzburg Takes Off! Challenges in Air Cargo.” Its success was such that biannual encores are already being planned for 2020.
If you have ever landed at “W.A. Mozart” airport, you will already know that it is possibly one of the most beautiful airport locations in the world – and Salzburg anyhow conjures up romantic
images of Maria von Trapp (alias Julie Andrews) running down a mountainside, swinging a guitar case… Were you also aware that almost two million passengers travel through Salzburg Airport each
year, making it Austria’s largest regional passenger airport (outside Vienna). And, if you landed after 28 May this year, you will have touched down on one of the world’s newest landing strips.
Salzburg Flughafen GmbH is currently investing 31,25 million euros in improvements and modernization, of which 26,2 million euros recently went into the successful completion of a 5-week
tour-de-force project wherein the landing strip dating back to the 1960s, was completely overhauled.
There’s more to Salzburg than the Sound of Music
That Salzburg Airport excels in passenger logistics is already a given, practically since it first started out in 1926. The quiet expertise in its by-product – cargo logistics – is less well-known – and this is something that the airport’s CEO, Bettina Ganghofer, wishes to change. Having managed an airfreight terminal team of 2,000 in Shanghai Pudong (PACTL) prior to taking her current position in mid-October 2017, her interest in Salzburg now is “how to combine the requirements of cargo and logistics with those of an international airport.” To this end, she appointed Harald Schwarz as Manager Business Development Airfreight & Logistics in March this year. His experience is in forwarding and logistics processes, and his enthusiasm for Salzburg Airport’s logistics project is palpable as CFG interviews him.
A boutique hub with a strong focus on maximizing its niche – and eyeing eCommerce potentials.
The challenge Salzburg Airport is facing is how to position a classical passenger airport as one that is also cargo focused. When asked how SZG wants to compete with the large cargo hubs MUC, VIE, MIL nearby, Harald Schwarz laughs and says it would be like “trying to promote a cheap little car alongside the likes of Mercedes and BMW”. He stresses that Salzburg Airport’s aim is not competition, but rather to “be seen as a valuable addition to the domestic cargo market.” Bettina Ganghofer also points to Salzburg Airport as being “small but smart,” and the project being driven by the question “where does it make sense to combine services?”. Where can the airport be a better service provider for its region in terms of cargo consolidation and logistics processes?
CFG asked how Salzburg Airport hopes to increase air cargo in future, to which Harald Schwarz responded “This is not about air cargo volume, but about the underlying logistics of the total cargo. It is important to find and operate market niches. We see our future in value-added services, such as - pick-up service, labeling, packaging, DGR check, screening...”
One such example is the inauguration of DPD’s first “Paketshop” which opened on the day of the event. Here Salzburg Airport takes on the role of deliverer and returns collector for DPD. Should the shop prove to be a success, similar set-ups may follow in future. With the huge increase in eCommerce, this is a clear step in the right direction as a regional service provider.
Investments in equipment and staff
Salzburg Airport is already in a position to handle all kinds of freight from dangerous goods, to valuables, to temperature-sensitive cargo in its 2,200m² warehouse, and the cargo team there is not only highly experienced in all aspects of import/export, ULD/pallet handling, and customs, but also prides itself on its flexibility and resourcefulness. The airport itself has often proved successful in keeping things running – even under adverse snow conditions when other surrounding airports have had to close temporarily.
Not only are new logistics positions currently being advertised, but a number of investments in equipment have recently been made – new forklifts and other warehouse improvements: Most importantly, however, the airport’s first Main Deck high-loader is due to be delivered this November, thus enabling cargo loading and off-loading of wide-body aircraft, in line with Harald Schwarz’s plans: “Getting additional cargo carriers to Salzburg is strategically not a priority. It is important to us that the existing number of scheduled and charter flights can be used even better for the transport of cargo.”
That said, the airport is already currently operating just under its total annual cargo capacity of 13,000 t. “Salzburg airport still has enough space for expansion measures. At present, we have not planned any investments for expansion measures” says Harald Schwarz, with Bettina Ganghofer knowing from experience that warehouses can often hold a great deal more than what is stipulated and pointing to another 6-700m² as possible extension if need be.
The ratio of Road Feeder Services to airfreight is currently 9:1, and the environmentally conscious airport (all airside vehicles are electric, for example) already consolidates a regular daily truck to and from VIE, with ad hoc trucks to MUC, FRA and AMS as and when required.
The event on the 01OCT19 is the start of something bigger
All 47 invited Austrian and German guests from key players in the region – airport and logistics partners and associations, forwarders, industry, business, as well as representatives from Upper Austria, Tyrol and Bavaria – turned up to the SOTA event on 1 October. Starting at 2:30 pm, with introductory speeches by Bettina Ganghofer and Hannes Staubmann from BVL Austria, delegates were then given a presentation of the airport and its cargo plans by Harald Schwarz, before being taken on a tour of the airport. After an introduction to passenger and luggage security processes, they boarded a bus for a tour of the hangar, airside facilities and cargo terminal, before retiring to the visitors’ terrace overlooking the landing strip, for the informal, networking part of the event. Final speeches were given by Gerald Gregori from BVL Austria, and Harald Schwarz. The weather also played its part, and the overall feedback from the delegates was very positive.
Taking logistics seriously
Salzburg Airport joined the BVL Austria in May 19, and is also the first of the Austria airports to partner in AUSTRIAN LOGISTICS – an umbrella organization originally set up by the Austrian Ministry for Traffic, Innovation and Technology together with the Austrian Federal Logistics Association, the Federation of Austrian Industries, the Network Logistics Association, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, and the Freight Forwarding & Logistics Association, in order to promote Austrian logistical expertise worldwide, and work on innovations in logistics.
Given the success of this first logistics event at the airport, plans are already underway to turn it into a biannual logistics congress on a larger scale, with expert presentations and panel discussions, and bringing together airport partners, customers and industry representatives from Austria and Germany – again hosted by the three co-sponsors. The date is still to be set, but APR/MAY 2020 is likely.
Five of Austria’s top 15 companies are based in Salzburg – indeed two of them are in the top three – so there is plenty of logistics’ interest in the region. Also, given that Salzburg is just 6 km from the German border, its catchment area is also unique in its cross-border potentials. Meetings with regional clients where current market trends and needs are established, and solutions brainstormed, already take place regularly, so the airport is well on its way to achieving its focus. As Harald Schwarz puts it “Now it is time for small ‘Salzburg airport steps’ in the big international cargo market.”