The Azeri cargo carrier has expanded its fleet, network and service portfolio almost unnoticed in recent times. “We are not the industry loudspeaker and rather make things happen than not walking the talk,” explains President and CEO Wolfgang Meier of Silk Way West Airlines this restrained attitude. A strategy that will and should not change in future, he states.
“We are THE ideal carrier for the Road and Belt initiative,” emphasized Mr. Meier in the presentation of his freight airline at the Baku-held 8th Caspian Air Cargo Summit attended by 270
delegates. Quite a self-confident assertion measured by the fact that there are many competitors out there serving East-West routes highly professionally. The executive‘s short explanation for
his carrier’s particular R&B qualification: “Geographically, we are ideally positioned between the Far East and Europe, operate 24/7/365, are based at Baku’s state-of-the-art Heydar
Aliyev Airport (code:GYD), offer the market a tailored network and the right products,” he stated.
Ideal route mix
It’s an almost perfect combination of trunk and regional or medium-haul routes, he adds, upping the transit volumes handled and processed at Baku Airport constantly.
The growing role of the Azeri freight carrier that still terms itself modestly as a niche player, is reflected by its fleet development. While in 2017 the fleet consisted of 12 units, it now encompasses 15 freighters: seven Boeing 747-8Fs, three B747-400Fs and 5 Ilyushin 76 all-cargo aircraft.
This fleet structure enables Silk Way West Airlines offering customers air transports on long-haul routes between the Far East, Europe and North America and connect them simultaneously with regional markets, stretching from neighboring countries such as Turkmenistan, Afghanistan or Kazakhstan, encompassing Turkey, Israel, and Russia, but also the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf region.
Currently, over 40 airports worldwide are serviced by the carrier, some in partnership with sister company Silk Way Airlines and Moscow-based partner Sky Gates Cargo Airlines. Including these partners, the combined fleet consists of 20 units.
Volumes keep growing but to a lesser degree
Asked about the effects of the current global cargo slump to his carrier, Mr. Meier states that Silk Way West Airlines’ tonnage keeps growing although at a slightly slower pace compared to last year. In figures this means that the Azeri carrier does see an increase of about 4-5% in tonnage.
Touching the months ahead, Mr. Meier says that Silk Way West Airlines eyes a moderate network expansion. “We are particularly interested in upping our presence in the Indian Subcontinent,” he states. With Delhi and Dhaka two destinations are currently serviced by the carrier. More might follow soon.
In recent weeks Oslo had been integrated into the carrier’s route map connecting the global air freight capital of salmon with Silk Way’s central hub in Baku.
Preventing unpleasant surprises
However, in the same breath the manager emphasizes that all steps, from fleet growth to network expansion are taken cautiously and tentatively. “We analyze twice or even thrice before we invest in additional freighters or open up new stations somewhere.” By doing so, unpleasant surprises, which can cost a lot of money, are largely prevented.
Another deciding factor for economic success is the lean organization of the airline. Perishable food is one example illustrating this approach, managed by Samir Shirin, the carrier’s VP ISMEA – Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and Asia. “Samir, who speaks five languages fluently, compiles the know-how of our staff and integrates the stations in pending perishables decisions or projects, including the ground handling staff,” explains Mr Meier.
Global marketing campaign is on the agenda
Pharmaceuticals and other temperature critical items such as perishables are a fast growing commodity transported and handled by Silk Way West Airlines. So are aircraft engines, which the carrier has made a name of itself in recent times as it did for flying heavy and outsized items.
Next to come, Wolfgang Meier announced during the Baku-held Caspian Air Cargo Summit, is a global marketing campaign that will be rolled out during the course of 2020.
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