Both freight carriers have inked an interline agreement aimed at providing cross-selling activities benefiting their customers. Under the agreement, the two capacity providers will use Dubai as a transit hub for transshipment traveling on intercontinental routes served by one of the two airlines.
A love affair looks different and is more emotional, but the decision taken by Wolfgang Meier, President of Azeri-based Silk Way West Airlines and Sanjeev Ghadia, founder and CEO of Kenya headquartered Astral Aviation, is highly rational. Both cargo veterans know the freight business from the bottom up and have agreed that cooperating might make a lot of sense. This is primarily because their carriers’ respective networks do not overlap, so joining forces creates a lot of synergies and widens both airlines’ reach. Dubai is the only airport served by Silk and Astral.
According to their pact, Silk Way West Airlines will carry Africa bound shipments via its intercontinental network to Dubai; handing them over to Astral Aviation’s flights to Nairobi, where the imports will connect to Astral’s intra-continental network. Conversely, Astral Aviation conveys African exports to Dubai where Silk Way will take them over, transporting the mainly perishable goods aboard their B747-400F or B747-8F respectively, to their hub in Baku from where they are set to be onforwarded by the Azeri airline to their final destinations in the Far East, Europe or even the U.S.
Enlarging Networks, not Fleet
The accord enables Silk Way to expand its reach into Africa, since the carrier does not operate its own flights to the continent. The same goes for Astral northbound. Subsequently, the networks of both carriers complement each other, as there is a number of interesting markets they still don’t serve independently.
Hence, Astral Aviation’s Chief Sanjeev Gadhia warmly welcomed the pact with Silk Way West Airlines, because it will enable them to reciprocate with cargoes, originating from Astral’s African network, to connect to destinations serviced by Silk Way West.
“We will continue to forge new alliances and partnerships during the pandemic in line with our philosophy of promoting cooperation and collaboration with airlines and all members of the supply chain. This will enable our respective clients to benefit with better options and connectivity from our respective networks,” the executive stated.
Silk Way's comment on the agreement with Astral is similar: “In cooperation with Astral Aviation, we expand our footprint into Africa. Having such a large network across the African continent is of great interest for us, jointly benefitting our and Astral’s customers,” stated Johnny Rubio, Silk Way West Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer ISMEA (Indian Subcontinent, Middle East, Africa).
Silk Way West Airlines was conceived in 2012. The Baku, Azerbaijan-based carrier is by far the largest cargo airline in the Caspian Sea region. It operates a fleet of 12 Boeing 747-8F and Boeing 747-400F freighter aircraft. The airline's annual transport quantity exceeds 420,000 tons (2020).
Venturing into Drone Services
Astral Aviation was established in November 2000 by Sanjeev Gadhia and has meanwhile become Africa’s largest cargo-only carrier. Based at Yomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi, it operates scheduled and non-scheduled/ad hoc cargo charters across the African continent and to Liege in Belgium, Doncaster in the UK, Hong Kong and airports in the Middle East. The fleet consists of 5 freighter aircraft, among them 2 B747-400F leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic. Lately, Astral has begun exploring intra-African drone services, complementing its freighter operations. The first results are promising, assured Mr. Gadhia during a recent video conference held by The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA).
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