Air freight has long played an important role at Vienna Airport (VIE), traditionally contributing 4% to the operator’s total annual turnover. However, this will be different in fiscal 2020, since the pandemic has catapulted cargo into a top position, as will become evident next Thursday (04MAR21) when the management presents the annual report.
The positive contribution of the cargo business to last year's operating result should not be a one-hit-wonder, cargo boss, Michael Zach, points out in an online conference with CargoForwarder Global. “Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, we had put air freight high on our agenda, which subsequently paid off particularly during the pandemic where cargo traffic increased tremendously,” Mr. Zach, VP sales & finance, ground handling & cargo operations at VIE, states. Interestingly enough, he expects the positive trend in cargo to continue throughout 2021 and even beyond, no matter how corona develops.
Modern ground infrastructure
Here are his key arguments underlining his optimistic outlook:
In 2019, a new Pharma Handling Center was opened, comprising 1,750 m² and two separate temperature areas. So to speak, an infrastructural just-in-time project ready to handle and store pharmaceuticals or temperature-critical medical products, particularly in demanding Covid-19 times. To safeguard the integrity of the cool-chain, VIE also invested in cool containers serving to transport temperature sensitive shipments from the aircraft stands to the pharma center, the airport’s communications director, Peter Kleemann illustrates. “The high investments we have made in recent times are proof that the freight business stands very high on our agenda,” the manager emphasizes.
First class service combined with a smart marketing campaign
In fact, already in 2017, VIE had enlarged its Air Cargo Center, adding 13,000 m² to the facility. Last year, 1,200 m² were annexed to the building for forwarding agents.
These structural measures were (and still are) embedded in a marketing campaign termed “Vienna Airport Region”, aimed at attracting new clients.
The airport’s “cargo package” offered to the market has obviously born fruit as seen by important investments made by integrator DHL Express, Japanese machine producer Makita, or local logistics matador cargo-partner, who have all erected facilities on airport or in its direct vicinity.
Customer centric approach
From a bird's eye view, Vienna is geographically in a sandwich position, orbited by heavyweights such as Frankfurt, Munich, or Budapest. So what is the airport’s success formula in order to not fall behind, but maintain or even expand its cargo business?
“We are known for offering customers extremely fast handling times based on high quality, very reliable services rendered by our experienced and dedicated staff, and customer centric solutions combined with rapid and unbureaucratic customs procedures. All this is documented through ongoing positive market feedback,” Mr. Zach underlines. He also heads ground handler Vienna Aircraft Handling GmbH, a 100% Airport subsidiary.
Large trucking network
VIE is currently serviced by several cargo airlines such as Korean Air Cargo, Cargolux, and Silk Way West Airlines, that all operate B747-400F or 47-8F. In addition, charter flights (“preighters”) play a key role. Flights operated by parcel delivery companies such as FedEx/TNT and UPS round off the services.
The catchment area traditionally stretches across large regions. Hence, over the years Vienna has become the hub of a fine-tuned trucking network that includes neighboring countries such as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, or Slovakia, but also stretches to places as far as the Ukraine, Bulgaria, or Romania. "These scheduled transports run like clockwork by and large," Michael Zach applauds. Asked about the role of rail transports across the Silk Road between China and central Europe, he sees no direct influence. “Air freight and rail transports are different animals,” he states.
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