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Delivering Vital Support Across The Globe

by Mahua Special Editor
Martin Drew, Senior Vice President Sales and Cargo, Etihad Aviation Group

Martin Drew, Senior Vice President Sales and Cargo, Etihad Aviation Group

Your extensive cargo and passenger management experience brought strategic and tactical leadership qualities to the Etihad cargo business leading it into a new era of prosperity. Before we discuss Etihad Cargo, tell us a bit of your background in aviation?

 “Next month (November) marks a year since I assumed my leadership role of Etihad Cargo. While it has been one of the most challenging years the industry has faced, it has also presented an opportunity for us to reassess our partnerships and strengthen our relationships to further support our customers across our network.

“Prior to this, I was solely focused on the passenger side of the business for more than five years heading Etihad Airways’ global sales organisation across 17 countries in Europe and the Americas. Here I gained an appreciation of just how close-knit and dynamic the air cargo industry is and have been able to encourage further collaboration and expertise sharing with both sides of the business during the past 12 months, which has benefited the airline at large.

“My aviation experience extends more than two decades, working within leadership roles across a number of airline and aviation services providers.”

Etihad Cargo expanded its African presence with pharma agreements with Astral Aviation and Kenya Airways. Please brief us on this deal and its prospect on Etihad Cargo’s economic growth?

 “The pandemic has placed an emphasis on the requirement for collaboration in the global fight against COVID-19. The World Health Organisation illustrated the need for additional airlift into Africa to support a vaccination drive across the continent, and so it was natural for us to evaluate how we could provide this. We already had a strong network of flights into Egypt, Kenya, Morrocco, and South Africa, and through this SLA agreement with Astral Aviation and Kenya Airways we will be able to aid and support the African market.

“Through our collaboration we will ease the transfer between airlines, boost transparency, and create consistency and efficiencies with pharma specific documentation, labelling and messaging, further elevating pharmaceutical logistics across Africa.

“The agreement extends our network to 27 offline stations and four online stations across the continent. On a commercial basis, this agreement will support our own network, and provide additional capacity and route options for our customers.”

Etihad Cargo maintained network operations throughout the epidemic and added critical routes to meet demand and also provided options for transporting temperature-controlled lifesaving drugs safely and securely. How did you accomplish it while overcoming the challenges?

 “Through our agility and dedication to our customers and partnerships. At the onset of the pandemic, when there was uncertainty around the immediate freeze on global airlift capacity, Etihad Cargo was not only fast to implement a solution which optimised our freighters and cargo-only passenger flights, within 24 hours, but we worked closely with our customers to ensure that the strategy we were implementing supported their demand and was versatile to be able to adapt to changing requirements.

“Our relationship with our customers has always been paramount for our teams in terms of expanding our network portfolio and overcoming challenges, and only heightened during the pandemic.

“Some classical supply chain challenges continue to be an issue for some industry players, especially with capacity shortages and capabilities concerning, but not limited to, pharmaceutical logistics. Through our expertise, and dedicated IATA CEIV certified PharmaLife product, we provide tailored solutions to handle all temperature-control requirements from -80°C through to +25°C. This has been a vital lifeline throughout the past 18 months, and supported our customers, the UAE Government aid programmes, and our collaboration with UNICEF, efforts through the HOPE Consortium, of which we are a founding member, and other pharmaceutical initiatives.”

Describe how the digitization of Etihad Cargo simplifies, intelligently and quickly improves agility and effectiveness, makes it smarter Cargo services?

 “Etihad Cargo has committed to driving a digitalised logistics industry through the introduction of a number of initiatives which not only improve our own efficiencies, but also provide cost saving transparency and convenience to our customers.

“This has seen us introduce several transformation programmes across Etihad Cargos’ fleet and network, commercial and operational processes, and our physical and digital infrastructures. One of the core projects was our front-end systems migration to IBS iCargo, which has fuelled our ability to centralise processes through a state-of-the-art Cargo Control Centre which tracks, monitors and reports on all of our customer shipments in real-time.

“With the focus being to streamline, enhance, and provide our customers with an intuitive experience, we have worked with leading third parties to introduce additional booking platforms which has supported the launch of our own direct booking functions through the revamped etihadcargo.com and the Etihad Cargo mobile app. The new-look website now includes the introduction of quicker booking processes and streamlined flows, a personalised dashboard, recommendations, and dynamic pricing.

“We have also minimised the need for paper air waybills and physical transactions thanks to major investments aimed at increased electronic air waybill penetration. We continue to explore additional programmes with IATA to ensure we are not only providing customers with best solutions but also doing it responsibly.”

We can never skip the topic of Drones when we talk about digitization and modernization. Could you share your views on utilization of these little flying things in your services?

“In light of technological advancements, cargo and the way we view air transport, will continue to evolve during the next five years. We are likely to witness a further urbanisation of the air cargo industry as digital solutions costs continue to reduce, matched with increased efficiencies, flexibility, and greater speed and scale, which in turn will foster innovation without precedents.

“An intelligent cargo ecosystem of agile applications can combine data insight, automation, and connectivity to enhance intelligent ways of transporting cargo. While it is considered that cargo has been slow to embrace technological change that change is now happening, and we will soon see the increasing integration and digitisation of the air cargo industry.

“The utilisation of drones in cargo is something that is picking up pace. The introduction of drones for last-mile requirements provides an innovative solution for the delivery of time and temperature sensitive shipments. In fact, according to a survey from Pharma.Aero and Humanitarian Logistics Association, more than half (58.3 per cent) anticipate drone deployment within their organisation in one to five years.”_

Etihad Airways, on a worldwide basis, is extremely prosperous. Your cargo is globally well connected. What strategies are you implementing to expand it to every corner of the world?

“Our fundamental priority is to keep our customers at the core of everything we do; it is our mission to provide positive experiences and build long-term relations. Our future plans revolve around focusing on key partnerships, and developing our products’ offering, services, and capabilities.

“Part of our strategy is the agility to adapt our schedules, optimise both our freighter and charter services, and work closely with our partners and customers to ensure we are providing vital support across the globe at a time when our customers have faced challenges.”

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