Aviation leaders gather in Dubai for IATA’s 80th AGM and World Air Transport Summit

About 3 million people worldwide are directly employed in the aviation sector. The travel and tourism value chain supports some 320 million jobs and accounts for about 10% of all economic activity. While the air cargo industry delivers $8.3 trillion of trade annually—some 35% of total global trade.

GENEVA/DUBAI: Leaders of the global airline industry gathered in Dubai this week for the 80th Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Industry (IATA) which represents about 330 carriers, and for the World Air Transport Summit.

The event (2-4 June 2024) was held in the UAE for the first time and hosted by Emirates Airline. Over 1,500 participants were in attendance, including industry leaders, government officials and media.

H.E. Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy for the United Arab Emirates welcomed the delegates to Dubai with an opening keynote speech to the AGM.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, commented, “Dubai’s world-leading connectivity places it at the crossroads of the planet. … This is a city that has forged its place in global aviation and prospered, thanks to its visionary leaders and progressive policies that recognize air transport’s role as a key economic enabler. In line with this, last year aviation contributed 27% to Dubai’s GDP and supported $37 billion in gross value added.”

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, noted, “There are always exciting new developments in Dubai, and I hope visiting delegates will get to a chance to experience this buzzing city and the UAE’s renowned hospitality for themselves.”

World Air Transport Summit
The World Air Transport Summit (WATS) immediately followed the AGM for a comprehensive program addressing the critical issues facing aviation.

“The commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will top the agenda of the 80th IATA AGM and World Air Transport Summit. We will explore solutions to accelerate progress, particularly with the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and the potential for carbon removals. We’ll also take stock of our progress on safety, financial sustainability, and other key industry topics. It’s important that we put these challenges on the table so that all stakeholders, including governments, have a clear understanding of what airlines need to connect people and economies safely, efficiently, and ever more sustainably,” said Walsh.

Key topics addressed in the WATS include:

The benefits of global connectivity is a topic that will underpin the entire program. Globally, aviation directly employs 3 million people and is a key enabling part of the travel and tourism value chain which supports some 320 million jobs and accounts for about 10% of all economic activity. Moreover, air cargo delivers $8.3 trillion of trade annually—some 35% of total trade.

For Dubai, Oxford Economics estimates that aviation contributed 27% to Dubai’s GDP and supported $37 billion in gross value added in 2023. This is projected to increase to $53 billion dollars in 2030, in line with Dubai’s growth.

Aviation also contributes to achieving 15 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).

Passenger demand growing for 36 months now
IATA said passenger demand has steadily grown for the past three years or 36 months. In April 2023, passenger traffic was up 11 percent compared to the same month in 2022 with a load factor of 82.4%.

“Passenger demand has been growing for 36 consecutive months. As we enter the peak northern summer travel season, there is every reason to feel optimistic for a strong summer with airlines offering a wide range of travel options. 97% of passengers asked in our recent survey said they were satisfied with their last flight. Every part of the travel value chain needs to be focused on maintaining that,” said the IATA Director General.

The Air Cargo Digital Revolution: How cargo.one is Elevating the Industry

The air cargo industry, once bogged down by manual processes and outdated systems, is undergoing a digital revolution. At the forefront of this transformation is cargo.one, a cutting-edge platform that brings efficiency, transparency, and real-time data.

Founded in 2017 by Moritz Claussen, Oliver Neumann and Mike Rötgers, with a vision for digitally transforming air freight procurement, cargo.one has become the go-to solution for airlines and freight forwarders alike, streamlining operations and propelling the industry into the digital age.
Air Cargo Update had an exclusive opportunity to sit down with the Co-CEO of cargo.one, Moritz Claussen, to delve deeper into the platform’s impact on the industry and its plans for the future. Claussen provided valuable insights into cargo.one’s mission, innovative strategies, and ongoing commitment to elevating air cargo logistics.

Digitalization Journey
“We founded the company in 2017,” Claussen recalls. “My two co-founders and I have spent all of our careers building technology for different sectors. We come from finance and gaming backgrounds. And in 2017, we looked for a new challenge and we started to look at logistics because we thought logistics, being very global, being just a really important part of the world’s background, essentially needed that digitalization.”
This digital journey began with a simple realization: The air cargo industry was still reliant on outdated, manual processes. Claussen explains, “We reached out to freight forwarding companies and airlines and said, ‘We think your space is super interesting. Can we spend two or three days with you and just observe exactly what you’re doing?'”
Their exploration led them to Frankfurt Airport, where they witnessed firsthand the inefficiencies plaguing the industry. “We realized that the way air cargo was being booked involved picking up the phone and calling multiple airlines, waiting for quotes, sometimes for days,” Claussen recounts. “This archaic process stood in stark contrast to the seamless online booking experiences we had grown accustomed to in other sectors.”
Determined to bridge this gap, cargo.one embarked on a mission to digitalize the booking process, forging partnerships with airlines and empowering freight forwarders with instant access to real-time offers. “We work with around 55 airlines globally, including industry giants like Qatar Airways, Air France KLM, Lufthansa, and American Airlines,” Claussen proudly states. “And we serve 20,000 freight forwarders, enabling them to quote and book cargo capacity digitally in real time.”

Empowering Through Integration
At the heart of cargo.one’s success lies its robust technological infrastructure, built upon the best quality real-time integrations with airlines’ core cargo systems. Claussen elucidates, “Our platform provides a live view of availability, pricing, and schedules, enabling instant bookings and confirmations. Gone are the days of static spreadsheets and delayed responses; we operate on the forefront of real-time data.”
By harnessing the power of APIs and tailored integrations, cargo.one ensures agility and responsiveness, empowering clients to make informed decisions swiftly. “Our goal is to provide a seamless experience,” Claussen emphasizes. “Whether you’re a freight forwarder searching for available capacity or an airline optimizing operations, our platform delivers actionable insights in real-time.”

Unleashing the Potential of Data
cargo.one doesn’t just make things easier; it’s a game-changer. By harnessing data analytics, it helps airlines and freight forwarders improve how they work. In today’s data-driven world, cargo.one is a leader, using its wealth of market knowledge to help airlines and freight forwarders operate at their best. Claussen explains, “Data is the lifeblood of our platform. Through cargo.one360, we offer actionable intelligence, enabling stakeholders to refine their strategies and enhance efficiency.”
By analyzing millions of offers generated on the platform each month, cargo.one empowers clients with compliant granular insights into market dynamics, pricing trends, and customer preferences. “Our goal is to enable personalized offerings tailored to each customer’s unique needs,” Claussen explains. “Whether it’s providing airlines with the tools to revenue optmize or route planning for freight forwarders, our data-driven approach drives tangible results. This enables informed decision-making and fosters greater efficiency throughout the supply chain.”
Driving Industry Growth
Reflecting on cargo.one’s exponential growth, Claussen emphasizes the platform’s role in driving industry-wide digital adoption. “From early adopters to late majority, airlines have recognized the imperative of embracing digital solutions,” he asserts. “And cargo.one has emerged as the leading facilitator of this transformation, helping airlines navigate the complexities of digitalization and unlock new opportunities.”
As cargo.one continues to scale its operations, the impact on the air cargo industry is palpable. Claussen reveals, “We facilitate tens of thousands of bookings monthly, driving exponential growth year over year. From established markets in Europe and North America to emerging hubs in Asia, our platform is reshaping the landscape of air freight.”
Claussen acknowledges the role of external factors, notably the COVID-19 pandemic, in accelerating digital adoption within the industry. “The pandemic served as a catalyst for change,” he observes. “Airlines recognized the imperative of digitalization for survival, leading to a surge in demand for our services.”
As cargo.one charts a course for the future, Claussen remains optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead. “We’ve transitioned from early adopters to the mainstream, with airlines across the globe embracing digital distribution,” he asserts. “Our focus now is on driving continued innovation, empowering our partners to thrive in an increasingly digital landscape.”
In quantifying the impact of cargo.one, Claussen paints a vivid picture of transformation. “Imagine a process that once involved endless emails and phone calls,” he muses. “Now, with cargo.one, it’s as simple as a few clicks. Time is saved, costs are reduced, and valuable resources are freed up to focus on strategic initiatives.”

cargo.one’s Impact on Air Cargo Booking
As cargo.one solidifies its position as the digital enabler for the air cargo industry, Claussen sheds more light on the pioneering features that have propelled the platform to prominence. He reminisces on the early days of cargo.one, recalling the visionary airlines that embraced digitalization from the outset. “Lufthansa, Finnair, and ANA were among the first to recognize the transformative potential of our platform,” Claussen recalls. “Their forward-thinking approach set the stage for widespread adoption across the industry.”
The transition from manual booking processes to instant digital transactions was not without its challenges, Claussen acknowledges. “Implementing instant booking across multiple airlines posed logistical and technical hurdles,” he explains. “Each airline operates on distinct systems, necessitating tailored integrations to ensure seamless connectivity.”
Despite the complexities, cargo.one’s commitment to innovation prevailed, ushering in a new era of efficiency and convenience for users.
From the perspective of freight forwarders, the impacts of cargo.one’s end to end quoting and booking functionalities are profound. Claussen elucidates, “Prior to cargo.one, freight forwarders navigated a labyrinth of emails and phone calls to secure capacity, a laborious process fraught with delays and uncertainty.”
By contrast, cargo.one streamlines the entire capacity discovery and booking experience into a matter of seconds. “With cargo.one, freight forwarders gain instant digital access to offers from dozens of airlines with a single search,” Claussen explains. “Gone are the days of manual inquiries and lengthy response times; now, bookings are finalized in mere seconds.”
The tangible benefits of cargo.one extend beyond time savings, Claussen emphasizes. “Freight forwarders experience a dramatic increase in productivity,” he notes. “Tasks that once consumed hours can now be completed in minutes, allowing personnel to focus on value-added activities and strategic initiatives.” Additionally, the cost savings associated with streamlined operations are significant, further enhancing the bottom line for businesses.

Strategic Partnerships
At the heart of cargo.one’s success lies its commitment to forging strategic partnerships with airlines and enterprise forwarders around the globe. For example, Claussen underscores the company’s mission to onboard every carrier onto the platform, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and accessibility. “Our mission as a platform is to have every carrier on the platform,” says Claussen, highlighting cargo.one’s dedication to providing freight forwarders with a comprehensive selection of options for their shipping needs.
But it’s not just about quantity; cargo.one also prioritizes the quality of its partnerships. Claussen stresses the significance of including both industry giants and niche players, ensuring that freight forwarders have access to a diverse range of supply options with a single search. Moreover, cargo.one’s approach goes beyond mere inclusion; the company’s dedicated teams work closely with airlines to facilitate their transition to digitalization, providing guidance and support every step of the way. By helping airlines leverage the full potential of the platform, cargo.one enables them to optimize their offer quality, raise performance and stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly dynamic and competitive market.

Product Offerings
cargo.one’s commitment to meeting the diverse needs of its users is reflected in its range of product offerings. From the free-to-use cargo.one platform to the advanced features of cargo.one pro and cargo.one for enterprise, the company provides solutions tailored to the requirements of freight forwarders of all sizes.
“cargo.one as a platform has always been free for freight forwarders,” Claussen explains, highlighting the accessibility of the basic platform. This free version allows freight forwarders to perform essential tasks such as searching for available capacity, comparing options, and making bookings—all within a user-friendly interface.
For those seeking additional functionality and customization options, cargo.one offers pro—a premium version with advanced features such as the ability to use different CASS numbers, quote and book agent to agent rates instantly, leverage advanced rate management, and build workflows and collaborate with team members. Claussen notes that cargo.one pro is incredibly popular among mid-tier freight forwarders, providing them with a joyful and robust solution to meet their growing needs.
At the enterprise level, cargo.one for enterprise offers fully customizable solutions designed to seamlessly integrate with larger freight forwarders’ trade management systems. Through its comprehensive and high quality API suite, cargo.one equips enterprise forwarders with its unrivaled market offer data and advanced quotation and rate management features directly within the forwarders’ existing workflows, eliminating the need for duplication and streamlining their operations.

Steering the Future
As cargo.one continues to push the boundaries of digital air freight, Claussen remains focused and optimistic about the future. “There’s so much to come,” he says, hinting at the company’s ongoing efforts to further enhance the platform via its targeted innovation. One area of focus is its smart tools to help freight forwarders generate accurate end to end quotations for customers at speed —a capability that can do much to revolutionize performance and efficiency across the air cargo industry.
By providing freight forwarders with instant access to often dynamic pricing data, as well as all relevant additional local cost components such as trucking, TSA fees, and customs clearance costs, cargo.one can empower them to provide accurate quotes to their customers more competitively than ever before. This increased transparency and efficiency not only benefits freight forwarders but also enhances the overall customer experience, leading to greater satisfaction and loyalty.
In conclusion, cargo.one’s vision for the future is one of continued and meaningful innovation and growth. By fostering strategic partnerships, expanding its product offerings, and embracing emerging technologies, cargo.one remains at the forefront of the air cargo industry, driving progress and delivering new value to its users every step of the way. As Claussen aptly puts it, “Digital is here to stay,” and cargo.one is leading the charge toward a more efficient, connected, and sustainable future for air cargo logistics.

Dubai poised to become world’s largest airport passenger hub

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Dubai is poised to become the hub of the world’s largest airport terminal capable of handling 260 million passengers annually with the government announcing a AED128 billion (about USD 35 billion) design plan for the emirate’s new aviation gateway at the Al Maktoum International Airport.

Dubai International Airport (DXB), currently the world’s busiest airport for international travel, will be moved to the sprawling Al Maktoum International Airport once the project is completed within the next 10 years.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced the ambitious aviation milestone for Dubai on 28 April 2024.

“Today, we approved the designs for the new passenger terminals at Al Maktoum International Airport, and commencing construction of the building at a cost of AED 128 billion as part of Dubai Aviation Corporation’s strategy. Al Maktoum International Airport will enjoy the world’s largest capacity, reaching up to 260 million passengers. It will be five times the size of the current Dubai International Airport, and all operations at Dubai International Airport will be transferred to it in the coming years. The airport will accommodate 400 aircraft gates and feature five parallel runways. New aviation technologies will be employed for the first time in the aviation sector,” the Dubai ruler on X (formerly twitter).

Sheikh Mohammed discussed the plan when he visited the Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects, accompanied by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, and H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, First Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai; H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group; and Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Office, were also present during the announcement.

“As we build an entire city around the airport in Dubai South, demand for housing for a million people will follow. It will host the world’s leading companies in the logistics and air transport sectors,” Sheikh Mohammed noted. “We are building a new project for future generations, ensuring continuous and stable development for our children and their children in turn. Dubai will be the world’s airport, its port, its urban hub, and its new global center.”

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed said the new airport is designed to meet Dubai’s growing aviation needs for the next 40 years, saying, “It will respond to the Hub Airline ambitious plans in terms of fleet acquisition and passenger growth. The airport will provide cutting-edge technologies, passenger facilities with unmatched level of service, and state-of-the-art aviation support facilities.”

“Al Maktoum International (AMI) is planned in such a way as to represent a leap into the future. It will comprise of five parallel runways with a quadruple independent operation, west and east processing terminals, four satellite concourses with over 400 aircraft contact stands, uninterrupted automated people mover system for passengers, and an integrated landside transport hub for roads, Metro, and city air transport,” he added.

While embracing sustainability, Al Maktoum International will strongly contribute to mitigate environmental emissions, aligning with the UAE’s vision for a sustainably built environment. Its integrated approach is targeted to leverage local resources and climatic conditions achieving exemplary efficiency targets and sustainability goals. AMI aims to achieve a LEED Gold Certification.”

Khalifa Al Zaffin, Executive Chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation, highlighted the economic benefits of the project. “The development of this new airport will be an integral part of Dubai’s economy and major contributor to the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33). It will generate estimated workforce and residential requirement for over a million people living and working in Dubai South (the aerotropolis), which has been under development and operation since 2007,” he said.

Suzanne Al Anani, CEO of Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects, said, “Dubai spearheads again. With the determination to maintain its leading role in the aviation sector globally, this airport development will represent a completely new approach to the concept of airports. The exponential acceleration of technologies and the abundance of knowledge in innovation will make us reinvent the passenger journey and experience.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said Dubai’s growth has always gone hand-in-hand with the growth of its aviation infrastructure, and today, one sees another bold step in that journey.

“The announcement of phase two of Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum International Airport’s (DWC) expansion, representing a substantial investment of AED128 billion, marks the start of a huge investment of resources by our many stakeholders in designing and building a state-of-the-art airport that will provide a quick, convenient, and high-quality 21st-century experience for our customers. This further solidifies Dubai’s position as a leading aviation hub on the world stage,” he said at the start of work on the new passenger terminal.

Griffiths said DXB will continue to serve as the primary hub, in the meantime, while the new airport project is being constructed, meeting the needs of 100 million plus guests over the next few years as phase two of DWC takes shape.

“We will actively collaborate with our airline customers, our strategic partners, the Dubai Government, and our stakeholders to bring this visionary project to fruition,” he said.

The ECS Group Journey: Mastering the Art of Global Cargo Management

“Our focus is on developing new services and solutions tailored to the evolving needs of airlines. By constantly seeking revenue optimization opportunities, we aim to exceed our partners’ expectations and ensure their satisfaction.” Adrien Thominet Executive Chairman, ECS Group

The world of global cargo management can be a labyrinth, where maintaining consistent service and operational standards across regions is a high-stakes juggling act. Yet, as a leading General Sales & Service Agent (GSSA), ECS Group, under the astute leadership of Executive Chairman and CEO Adrien Thominet, has mastered this art with finesse. Their vast network of 181 offices in 59 countries worldwide isn’t just about consistency; it’s about pushing the boundaries of innovation in the industry.

In an exclusive interview with Air Cargo Update, Adrien Thominet, ECS Group’s Executive Chairman, elucidates their operational ethos, characterized by an unyielding dedication to service excellence. Moreover, he unveils their pioneering endeavors that are not only reshaping but also redefining the trajectory of global cargo management.

Ensuring Consistency Across Regions
Thominet emphasizes ECS Group’s centralized approach to standardization, facilitated by regional headquarters and robust digital tools. “We strive to centralize operations and duplicate standards established at headquarters across all regions,” states Thominet. “Our systems, processes, and digital tools enable seamless replication of standards worldwide, ensuring consistency in service delivery.”

The Group’s dedication to service excellence extends beyond standardization. Thominet highlights ECS Group’s commitment to continuous improvement, driven by the imperative to optimize revenue for airline partners. “Our focus is on developing new services and solutions tailored to the evolving needs of airlines,” affirms Thominet. “By constantly seeking revenue optimization opportunities, we aim to exceed our partners’ expectations and ensure their satisfaction.”

Pioneering Total Cargo Management (TCM)
Thominet sheds light on ECS Group’s pioneering TCM offering, which revolutionizes traditional cargo management methods. “TCM entails assuming full responsibility for both sales and operations, including audit, quality, and safety aspects,” he explains. “By adopting this all-inclusive approach, we transcend the role of a traditional GSA, assuming the responsibilities of an airline and offering a comprehensive solution to our partners.”

The innovative nature of TCM lies in its ability to address specific pain points in the industry. He elaborates, “TCM not only streamlines operations but also enhances accountability and efficiency. By managing claims, operations, billing, and interlining, we provide a holistic solution that delivers tangible benefits to our airline partners.”

Driving Innovation and Value-added Services
ECS Group’s commitment to innovation extends beyond TCM, encompassing delivering value-added services and digital solutions. Thominet underscores the company’s efforts to differentiate itself and create added value for its partners. “We continuously seek opportunities to provide innovative solutions that optimize revenue and enhance operational efficiency,” he asserts. “From digital platforms to interlining options, our goal is to empower our airline partners with tools and services that drive revenue optimization.”

As ECS Group grows and innovates globally, Thominet stays focused on understanding its clients’ changing needs, reaffirming their dedication to excellence and driving innovation across its global operations. “As a trusted partner to airlines worldwide, we remain committed to delivering value, driving innovation, and exceeding expectations,” states Thominet. “Our relentless pursuit of excellence ensures that we remain at the forefront of the industry, driving positive change and delivering tangible benefits to our partners.”

Expanding Footprint in Africa

With the recent acquisition of EFIS Morocco, ECS Group embarks on an ambitious journey to deepen its footprint in Africa. Thominet sheds light on the company’s strategic approach to integration and expansion in a region ripe with opportunities and challenges.

Thominet elucidates ECS Group’s strategic move into Africa, emphasizing the region’s significance as a new frontier for development. “Africa is the new area of interest for us to explore and develop. We already have a presence in Nigeria, and the acquisition of EFIS Morocco marks a significant step forward in expanding our reach on the continent,” he said.

Recognizing the predominance of manual logistics processes in African markets, Thominet highlights ECS Group’s value proposition. “There is ample room for a multi-international company like us to bring our expertise to Africa,” he explains. “Our financial stability, streamlined processes, robust IT systems, and adherence to compliance standards set us apart. We aim to offer airlines in Africa the same level of service and commitment they experience in other continents.”

Adapting to Digitalization
As the industry witnesses a paradigm shift towards digitalization and e-commerce, ECS Group is at the forefront of innovation. Thominet discusses the company’s strategic initiatives in response to the increasing adoption of online booking portals in air cargo. “We’ve taken significant steps to adapt to this evolving landscape,” he reveals. “We’ve established Mail & More, a dedicated GSS solution for e-commerce and mail traffic management. Additionally, our partnership with Cargo AI has enabled us to invest in digital platforms, facilitating a seamless transition towards digitalization.”

ECS Group continues to be a leader in the digital world, looking for ways to incorporate automation and artificial intelligence (AI) into its daily operations. Thominet acknowledges the nascent stage of AI implementation but underscores its potential in enhancing predictive capabilities and optimizing operations. “AI holds the promise of revolutionizing our industry, and we are committed to harnessing its power to drive efficiency and elevate customer experiences,” says Thominet.

Thominet reflects on the varying degrees of digital maturity across regions, noting Europe and the Middle East as frontrunners in embracing online business. “Surprisingly, Europe has emerged as a leader in this regard, followed closely by the Middle East,” he observes. “While Asia and the USA are catching up, there’s still progress to be made in terms of digital adoption.”

Impact of COVID-19 on Industry Dynamics
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the industry’s digital transformation, prompting a shift towards remote work and digital solutions. Thominet reflects on the pandemic’s role in catalyzing change within the industry. “The COVID-19 period forced us to reevaluate our operations and embrace digital solutions,” he acknowledges. “It catalyzed change, pushing both the new and old generations to adapt to digital transformation.”

Thominet expresses confidence in the industry’s readiness to embrace change, particularly driven by the influx of the new generation. “The new generation is inherently more inclined towards embracing digitalization,” he asserts. “As industry leaders, it’s our responsibility to facilitate this transition and capitalize on the opportunities it presents.”

Diversification as a Shield Against Risk
Thominet emphasizes the importance of diversifying revenue streams as a safeguard against potential risks. With a keen eye on market dynamics and bolstered by robust business intelligence, ECS Group identifies and seizes opportunities swiftly. “Our close proximity to market opportunities and vigilance in monitoring market trends enable us to preempt risks and capitalize on emerging prospects,” notes Thominet.

ECS Group’s proactive stance towards revenue diversification is evident in its exploration of new freight solutions. He elaborates, “We see opportunities to implement new freight solutions, such as joint ventures with airline partners, which not only mitigates risk but also allows us to capitalize on emerging market trends.”

Middle East and Beyond: A Nexus of Growth
Acknowledging the transformative shifts in the Middle East, Thominet highlights ECS Group’s proactive stance in the region. With a formidable presence in Dubai, the company is poised to harness the region’s burgeoning aviation and healthcare sectors. “The Middle East presents a dynamic landscape, fueled by both regional advancements and global influences. It’s an area of immense potential for us,” Thominet noted.

ECS Group’s active engagement in the Middle East extends beyond traditional logistics to capitalize on the region’s diverse opportunities. Thominet elaborates on the company’s strategic initiatives, stating, “Our presence in Dubai serves as a strategic gateway, allowing us to tap into the region’s thriving aviation and healthcare industries. We are actively exploring collaborations and partnerships to expand our footprint and enhance our service offerings.”

The recent geopolitical challenges, particularly the Red Sea crisis, have underscored the region’s strategic importance in global logistics. Thominet acknowledges the impact of these challenges while emphasizing ECS Group’s resilience and adaptability. “Despite the geopolitical complexities, the Middle East remains a key focus area for us. We are committed to navigating these challenges while capitalizing on the region’s vast potential,” he asserts.

Furthermore, Thominet highlights the region’s pivotal role in driving technological innovation, particularly in the adoption of digital solutions. “The Middle East is at the forefront of digital transformation, with a strong emphasis on innovation and technology adoption. We see tremendous opportunities to leverage digital solutions to enhance efficiency and customer experiences in the region,” he adds.

Thominet discusses the synergies between the Middle East and the booming Indian market. “India’s booming economic growth and increasing trade volumes make it a significant market for ECS Group,” he states. “The combination of the Middle East’s strategic location and India’s economic dynamism creates a compelling opportunity for us to expand our presence and deliver value to our customers.”

ECS Group’s strategic investments in both the Middle East and India reflect its commitment to capitalizing on emerging market opportunities and driving sustainable growth. Thominet concludes, “As these regions continue to evolve, ECS Group remains dedicated to fostering strategic partnerships, embracing innovation, and delivering unparalleled service to our global clientele.”

Beyond Borders: Charting Growth Trajectories
Geographical expansion is just one facet of ECS Group’s growth strategy. Thominet emphasizes the importance of diversification in services, offering comprehensive solutions beyond sales and operations. “Our focus is on total cargo management, providing end-to-end solutions that empower airlines to streamline their operations,” explains Thominet.

As ECS Group continues to evolve, Thominet underscores the company’s commitment to continuous innovation. “We aim to provide a comprehensive suite of services, encompassing ground supervision and outsourcing, to meet the evolving needs of our clientele,” he adds.

Advice for Industry Pioneers
Reflecting on ECS Group’s journey, Thominet underscores the importance of reliability, innovation, and adaptability. “In this dynamic industry, aligning with trusted partners and embracing innovation is paramount,” advises Thominet. He emphasizes the significance of continuous reinvention, urging industry players to remain agile and proactive in navigating the winds of change.

In his concluding remarks, Thominet takes a forward-looking stance, emphasizing ECS Group’s resolute dedication to advancing industry innovation and influencing the course of international logistics.

Turkish Airlines resumes flights to Tripoli, Libya

Istanbul, Turkiye: Turkish Airlines has resumed flights to Tripoli, the capital of Libya, on March 28, 2024, with three flights a week—Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

Turkiye’s flag carrier connects Africa to most destinations in the world. It operates 62 destinations across the African continent alone. Worldwide, the airline flies to 130 countries and 346 destinations.

During the inauguration ceremony at Mitiga International Airport, Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Ekşi, stated: “As Turkish Airlines, we feel the excitement of connecting continents, this time in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. We are delighted to start flights again to Libya, with which we have historical ties. We will continue to bring cultures together in Africa, as in many continents.”

Turkish Airlines, which flies to 130 countries and 346 destinations, continues to provide its passengers with unlimited connectivity through new destinations, while also extending its high quality and service to every corner of the world.

Turkish Airlines passengers will be able to travel from Istanbul to Tripoli for USD 379 and from Tripoli to Istanbul for USD 299 between March 28 and May 31, 2024, with tickets purchased between March 23 and May 15, 2024.

The prices applicable within the scope of the campaign are the official website prices of Turkish Airlines; however, they may vary at ticket sales offices and agencies.

Scheduled Flight Times:

Meanwhile, AnadoluJet, established as a sub-brand of Turkish Airlines in 2008 to meet the air transportation needs with more advantageous options, has started its ticket sales under the name “AJET” on its official website ajet.com as of March 12.

AnadoluJet has reunited over 150 million guests with their loved ones over the past 16 years since its establishment.

Now under its new name and scope, AJET is aiming to soar higher by offering a more modern, comfortable, and accessible experience for its guests while planning to be a prominent low-cost airline on a global scale and further strengthen its competitive position in the market.

AJET will operate flights to a total of 93 destinations, including 41 domestic and 52 international, with its fleet of 95 aircraft during the summer season of 2024. Within the next 10 years, it plans to fly to a total of 44 countries as a global growth target with a fleet of 200 aircraft.

Hactl: The Heartbeat of Hong Kong’s Air Cargo Hub

Operating since 1976, the company’s services extend to over 100 airlines and 1,000 freight forwarders worldwide, making it a vital player in the global air cargo network.
By Mohammed Irshad


As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, there is no change to our long-term policy of investment in innovation, led by our Performance Enhancement team. It is admittedly ever more challenging to find new opportunities to further enhance our operations, but we continue to try. Equally important, our every action and decision are now taken with an eye to sustainability, and this is now enshrined in our culture through our Sustainability Strategy Framework.”

At the heart of Hong Kong’s bustling aviation hub lies Hong Kong AirCargo Terminal Limited (Hactl), a name synonymous with efficiency, innovation, and excellence. Operating since 1976, the company stands as the leading air cargo terminal in Hong Kong, offering the most comprehensive and efficient ground handling services with state-of-the-art facilities.

Born to optimize the restricted cargo space at Hong Kong’s former Kai Tak Airport, Hactl has evolved to support the city’s ambition to become a world-class cargo hub. Over the past decades, the company has meticulously crafted a proud history marked by substantial investment, continuous innovation, rich experience, and a commitment to industry best practices.

Recognized as the world’s largest independent handler at the Hong Kong International Airport – the global pinnacle of air cargo hubs – Hactl sets the gold standard by which the industry measures itself. Handling almost 40% of all air cargo traffic flowing through this international nexus, the company not only creates the framework for cargo management, but also clears the path for air freight to become more intelligent, efficient, and sustainable in the future.

Hactl’s SuperTerminal 1, stands as the world’s single largest multi-level air cargo terminal with a designed capacity of handling up to 3.5 million tons every year. Boasting massive handling systems that represent the epitome of automation and efficiency, SuperTerminal 1 is evidence of Hactl’s commitment to providing state-of-the-art facilities. Accredited under every relevant industry standard, the terminal accommodates every type of cargo and aircraft.

Hactl provides a true one-stop shop, offering comprehensive services such as terminal handling, ramp handling, crew transport, documentation, charter flight support, and value-added logistics services. Hactl’s services extend to over 100 airlines and 1,000 freight forwarders worldwide, making it a vital player in the global air cargo network.

In addition to physical cargo handling, freighter ramp handling, documentation handling, and crew transportation, Hactl provides unique multi-modal service between Hong Kong and mainland China through its wholly-owned subsidiary Hacis.

At the heart of SuperTerminal 1’s operation is COSAC-Plus, the latest generation of Hactl’s air cargo management system. This cutting-edgetechnology seamlessly links forwarders, airlines, and regulatory bodies,providing unparalleled data flows and visibility of cargo status.

At the forefront of development, Hactl adopts cutting-edge technologies, Orchestrating a transformative symphony in the global transportation of goods. From automated guided vehicles gracefully navigating through warehouses to state-of-the-art software optimizing21every step of the logistics chain, Hactl not only envisions but actively engineers a future where air cargo is synonymous with intelligence, velocity, and sustainability. Air Cargo Update had the privilege of engaging in an insightful conversation with Joanna Li, Executive Director – Commercial and Business Development of Hactl. Here is an exclusive glimpse into the visionary perspectives and strategic insights that propel Hactl to the forefront of the air cargo industry.

As we step into the new year, could you provide insights into how 2023 unfold for Hactl? What were the key achievements, challenges, and pivotal moments for the company during the past year?
2023 was a challenging year for the air cargo industry as a whole, impacted by geo-political issues such as Ukraine and Israel, and trade tensions between major economic powers. At Hactl, we have seen steady improvement throughout the second half year, buoyed up by increasing e-commerce activity. We are still expecting 2024 to see a return to modest underlying growth.

How does Hactl’s use of Automated Service Kiosks (ASK) improve air cargo operations, and what’s next in your digitalization journey?
The ASKS are digitizing what was a paper-based, manual process. With large and constant volumes of visitors collecting cargo from Hactl, anything we can do to speed up the process is good for customers and relieves potential congestion on the site. The high-tech features of the ASKs also provide a more robust layer of security since there is no human involvement in scrutinizing and matching documents to the presenting individual. This is a technology that is already used in other government applications. Other processes and services will be added progressively to the kiosks’ capabilities. At this moment, we are also studying various projects involving the use of Al to improve our work processes across the board, and thus efficiency.

How does Hactl’s partnership with Aerovision Technology enhance safety and reliability in Hong Kong’s air cargo industry?
We are looking at all possible means of eliminating the risk of fires from lithium-ion battery shipments. We introduced sniffer dogs in 2023 to detect any possible undeclared shipments, and this new intelligent thermal

system further strengthens our precautions by detecting any suspicious temperature variances that could indicate batteries are overheating inside a built-up ULD and in danger of causing a fire. It is far better to eliminate any potential problem on the ground before cargo is loaded and flies.

Hactl has made a public commitment to the Science-Based Target initiative (SBTI). What specific carbon reduction targets have been set, and how do these align with the goals of the Paris Agreement?
Hactl has committed to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 50.4% by 2030, from a 2018 base line, in line with the 1.5°C trajectory for limiting global temperature rises put forward at the Paris Agreement. The company also commits to reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services, fuel- and energy-related activities, waste generated in operations, employee commuting and downstream leased assets by 50.4% within the same timeframe. The target boundary includes land-related emissions and removals from bioenergy feedstocks.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTI) is a global body enabling companies and financial institutions to set ambitious emissions reduction targets in line with the latest climate science. The SBTi’s goal is for businesses across the world to support the global economy in halving emissions before 2030, and achieving net zero before 2050.

Among the many measures Hactl has employed, or will implement, to achieve its SBTi targets, are replacing internal combustion-powered vehicles and ground support equipment (GSE) with electric versions; procuring Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs); increasing the use ofenergy-efficient lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; working with suppliers to reduce Hactl’s upstream emissions, especially from purchased goods and services; implementing digital management systems to eliminate paper use; and devising innovative ways of diverting wood, paper, plastics, and mixed waste from landfill.

Hactl signed an agreement with CLP to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates. How has this partnership influenced the sustainability of your operations, and are there plans to expand the use of renewable energy in the future?
The agreement covers six years commencing in August 2022, and will be equivalent to a total reduction of around 18,000 tonnes of carbon emissions associated with electricity (based on the carbon intensity of the electricity sold by CLP Power in Hong Kong in 2021). Hactl has become the largest purchaser of CLP RECS in the airport community. Each unit of electricity in a REC represents the environmental attributes of electricity that are either generated or purchased by CLP Power from local renewable energy sources, including solar power, wind power, and landfill gas projects.

With its purchase of RECS, Hactl reduces its carbon footprint, demonstrating its continued commitment to renewable energy. We continue to invest in new ways to support our overall aims but, while we wait for further new technology to become available to us, this purchase of CLP RECS provides us with an immediate and highly -effective method of supporting the generation and use of clean energy.

Hactl mentions having a world-class Green Terminal aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Could you provide specific examples of how this commitment is reflected in your day- to-day operations and overall business strategy?

The 17 UN SDGs are closely reflected in Hactl’s recently introduced Sustainable Strategy Framework, which informs every aspect of the company’s operations and decision-making and sets standards and goals for staff and suppliers. Staff and visitors are constantly reminded of the SDGs, which form the basis of interactive displays and quizzes within Hactl’s office stairwells.

Recent examples of Hactl following the SDGs are its New Life for Old Uniforms initiative, which saw 8000 unused, outdated uniforms converted to useful strong tote bags and cute teddy bears; and its sponsorship of a campaign to achieve workplace recognition of and support for, the challenges of menstruation for female workers. The campaign also includes a series of educational activities to promote menstrual equity in the community.

How is Hactl strategically positioning itself to capitalize on the growing digital global economy within the air cargo industry, and could you outline specific initiatives the company is implementing to strengthen its role in the evolving digital landscape?
We have long felt that digitization of air cargo processes is vital to thefuture efficiency of the industry, and to securing its place in e-commerce supply chains where digital data flows eliminate delays and errors, andprovide the transparency and visibility demanded by end customers.Hactl and its subsidiary Hacis have facilitated digital supply chains by providing integration with partners’ systems, and by systematically eradicating all paper-based processes.

This paid a major dividend during COVID lockdowns, enabling Hactl tocontinue operating with all its office staff working remotely. Among the many examples of digital facilitation are our new ASKS whichelectronically release import cargo and update records without humanintervention; our paperless COSAC-eLoading system which provides digital manifests and aircraft loading instructions that can be updatedand shared in real-time, facilitating late changes to bookings; and our mobile apps which enable collectors of import shipments to pre- register their trucks and receive fast-track services. All data collected by these systems is visible to customers.

How does Hactl strategically enhance supply chain efficiency and address challenges through collaborations in the air cargo industry?
Hactl’s standard service offering is designed to provide its airline customers with competitive, safe, and efficient handling of their flights both through the quality and scope of services. Where additional customization is required, Hactl is always open to discussion and will always accommodate such requests whenever possible. A recent example is the partnership with Qatar Airways on sniffer dogs to detect undeclared lithium batteries in cargo. Initially introduced to address their specific concerns, the service has subsequently been made available to all carriers. Our collaboration with ATL on the thermal detection system mentioned above is also a very recent example of partnerships in the industry driving aviation safety.

A recent example is the partnership with Qatar Airways on sniffer dogs to detect undeclared lithium batteries in cargo. Initially introduced to address their specific concerns, the service has subsequently been made available to all carriers. Our collaboration with ATL on the thermal detection system mentioned above is also a very recent example ofpartnerships in the industry driving aviation safety.

As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, what strategic priorities and initiatives is Hactl prioritizing to further enhance its position in the air cargo industry?
There is no change to our long-term policy of investment in innovation, led by our Performance Enhancement team, whose job is to seek out inefficiencies and resolve them through tech-led solutions. It is our long-held obsession with optimum performance for our customers that has made a major contribution to the high standing of Hong Kong today, as a global air cargo hub; and we will continue to do everything we can to help the airport maintain its leading role. It is admittedly ever more challenging to find new opportunities to further enhance our operations, but we continue to try. Equally important, our every action and decision are now taken with an eye to sustainability, and this is now enshrined in our culture through our Sustainability Strategy Framework.

Saudia Cargo, WFS and Cainiao Group kick off cooperation in Liege to boost the efficiency of cross-border e-commerce trade

Liege, Belgium: Saudia Cargo, Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), a Member of the SATS Group, and Cainiao Group, have officially launched their strategic collaboration at Cainiao’s Liege eHub in Liege Airport, Belgium, further solidifying their longstanding partnership.

The collaboration is aimed at optimizing logistics processes through operational streamlining and the
adoption of logistics innovations.

An inauguration ceremony was held on 01 March at the airside of the eHub, currently leased by WFS, with logistics procedures, facilities, and innovations invested in by Cainiao, demonstrating a commitment to delivering the best quality service solutions to clients and partners. WFS, in close collaboration with Cainiao, operates within the air cargo station.

Since November 2021, Cainiao and WFS have been working together to enhance operational quality for joint partners like Saudia Cargo. Key service level agreement commitments include a 3-hour e-commerce transit, BUP release within 3 hours from ATA, and truck handling in less than 90 minutes.

The collaboration has also bolstered the logistics capacity of the eHub, with three temperature- controlled facilities jointly designed by the three parties. These include areas for loose 2-8°C
(205 sqm), BUP 2-8°C (140 sqm), and loose 15-25°C (400 sqm), supporting the transportation
of perishable and pharma cargo products.

Additionally, the eHub has obtained BCP certification, enabling the transport of fresh goods and further enhancing its capacity to facilitate cross-border trade.

This initiative addresses the growing demand for high-quality logistics operations in the cross-border e-commerce sector, particularly in the Middle East and European markets. Earlier this year, Cainiao launched its international express shipping service, Global 5-Day Delivery, in collaboration with AliExpress, now available in ten countries worldwide.

The collaboration between Saudia Cargo and Cainiao includes specific freighter flights from Hong Kong to Riyadh and Liege, strategically tailored to meet the increasing logistics demands in these key regions and enhance e-commerce delivery efficiency. Furthermore, the contract extension to WFS for handling over 50,000 tonnes annually on flights connecting Liege and Riyadh underscores Saudia Cargo’s ambition for operational excellence and reliable logistics services.

WFF’s investment in subleasing part of the Cainiao facility in Liege illustrates its commitment to innovation and efficiency, creating a dedicated area for swift and real-time information processing. The integration of innovative technology solutions, including AGVs, advanced PDAs, digital dashboards, and live tracking systems, supports a new generation of cargo management systems utilizing IoT technologies to drive efficient and sustainable e-commerce handling.

Teddy Zebitz, CEO of Saudia Cargo, remarked: “Our collaboration marks a strategic milestone, addressing the burgeoning significance of e-commerce in the air cargo sector. Our aim is clear: to introduce a business model that enhances efficiency, reliability, and innovation on a global scale, reshaping the landscape of international trade. With the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia serving as a pivotal market, our operations into Liege solidify its status as a crucial hub for efficient connections to Europe, while also strengthening our position in the KSA market.”

“Central to this endeavor is our partnership with Cainiao, leveraging their unparalleled capacity and global network. Our meticulous process, from pre-built ULDs in Hong Kong to seamless handover in Liege via Riyadh, ensures an uninterrupted flow of e-commerce materials. In parallel, as we expand our capacity and cargo flights worldwide, the collaboration with WFS/SATS underscores our commitment to innovation and efficiency, revolutionizing e- commerce handling with cutting-edge technologies,” he added.

John Batten, Chief Executive Officer, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia (EMEAA) WFS, a Member of the SATS Group, also commented: “WFS is proud to be extending our partnership with Cainiao and Saudia Cargo. As highly-respected leaders in their respective fields, they recognize that key aspects of e-
commerce and cargo handling supply chains are most efficient when they are delivered by experienced and trusted partners. By combining WFS’ proven handling capabilities with the use of innovative technologies, our team in Liege look forward to delivering the clearly-defined service standards set by Cainiao and Saudia, and to supporting the continued growth of our successful collaboration.”

Eric Xu, Vice President of Cainiao Group, noted: “Cainiao is committed to transforming the logistics industry through continuous innovation to enable a seamless e-commerce experience and we are delighted to find close partners like Saudi Cargo and WFS on this path. Through continuously equipping our Liege eHub with cutting-edge technology solutions and facilities, we managed to boost the efficiency of logistics operations while improving customer experience through greater transparency and traceability. We are confident that this win-win collaboration will further reinforce Cainiao’s position as the world’s leading cross-border e-commerce logistics provider by offering the valued customers of us three companies with enhanced experience.”

Challenge Group: Navigating the volatile global business landscape with ease

The Group extends its influence beyond the runway, guaranteeing efficient door-to-door delivery solutions. Working together with more than 40 reliable trucking partners, it offers tailored road feeder solutions to more than 100 destinations across Europe which
can be reached within 12 hours.

By Mohammed Irshad

The air cargo industry isn’t just about navigating turbulence: It’s about taking flight, reaching new heights, and delivering value at every step. In this high-stakes game, where agility and resilience are crucial, Challenge Group emerges as a steadfast player, expertly navigating the choppy waters.

From its humble inception in 1976, Challenge Group has metamorphosed into an influential entity, comprising eight cohesive divisions that breathe life into their guiding principle: “Let your logistics project be our challenge!”

But what distinguishes Challenge Group as a true game-changer in the air cargo arena? The answer lies in their holistic approach. Unlike standalone service providers, Challenge Group operates as a seamlessly integrated network, presenting an unparalleled spectrum of services under one roof. This encompasses:

Dedicated Airlines: Three strategically positioned airlines—Challenge Airlines IL, BE, and MT—enable global reach and flexible scheduling, ensuring swift and secure delivery to your cargo’s destination.

Extensive Road Network: With robust European and US trucking networks, Challenge Group extends its influence beyond the runway, guaranteeing efficient door-to-door delivery solutions. Working together with over 40 reliable trucking partners, Challenge Logistics offers tailored road feeder solutions to more than 100 destinations across Europe. It currently averages more than 1,250 legs per month. Most of the major European capitals can be reached within 12 hours. 65% of Challenge Group’s business is non-standard cargo, hence door-to-door solutions for complex cargo are its specialty.

Expert Challenge Handling: Their established handling company ensures meticulous cargo care, minimizing risks and optimizing efficiency throughout the ground handling process. Located in Liège, Belgium, at the heart of the Golden Triangle (Frankfurt-Paris-Amsterdam), Challenge Handling is considered one of the largest and most sophisticated handling facilities in Europe.

Some 40,000 m² of online warehouse, 10,000 m² of offline warehouse, and 400 m² of temperature-controlled storage, as well as 5000 m² of office space, make up the facility which caters specifically to special cargo needs. Alongside automated roller-bed systems for ULD (SACO & ETV systems) to ensure quick and efficient cargo handling, Challenge Handling has a high-security clearance and has Europe’s largest capacity high loader (52 tons).

Leasing Powerhouse: Challenge Aviation, catering to both airlines and operators, provides access to wide-body aircraft and engines through its leasing arm.

Tailored Maintenance: Whether routine checks or intricate repairs, their line maintenance provider ensures your aircraft remains airworthy and prepared for the next challenge.

Commercial Expertise: Through Challenge Air Cargo, the group’s commercial entity, clients gain access to dedicated teams adept at crafting unique solutions for time-sensitive and complex shipments.

This integrated approach empowers Challenge Group to overcome any logistical hurdle, no matter how complex or demanding. They don’t merely transport cargo; they conduct a symphony of seamless transportation, consistently surpassing expectations.

Air Cargo Update had the privilege to sit down with Yossi Shoukroun, the CEO of Challenge Group, gaining further insights into the company’s accomplishments and plans. Let’s discover more from his own words in this Q&A.

Can you elaborate on the specific records and areas of growth that Challenge Group achieved in 2023?
In 2023, Challenge Group achieved remarkable milestones and experienced substantial growth in the face of challenging market conditions. Despite these obstacles, the company celebrated a successful year highlighted by notable accomplishments.

The introduction and deployment of our B767 fleet were pivotal in this success, allowing us to uplift a record-breaking tonnage. Additionally, our end-to-end and charter activities reached new heights, culminating in the completion of 1000 charter flights throughout the year.

Both Challenge Handling and Challenge Technic made significant strides by attracting new clients such as MSC, SF, and Smartwings. This not only expanded our customer base but also enabled us to diversify and enhance our range of logistics services, showcasing our commitment to providing comprehensive and tailored solutions to meet the evolving needs of our clients.

What key strategies or innovations contributed to Challenge Group’s success in 2023?

Our core identity and value proposition are deeply rooted in an end-to-end solution approach tailored to meet diverse supply chain requirements. Over time, we’ve emerged as the partner of choice for handling complex verticals such as heavy and oversized, dangerous goods, aircraft engines, cars, horses, and pharmaceuticals and addressing specific or unique logistics needs.

Looking ahead to 2024, our strategic emphasis is centered on reinforcing internal collaboration within the group and refining the distinct service that distinguishes us within the air cargo industry. Those ancillary services are none other than providing end-to-end logistics solutions from a singular source, ensuring stability and reliability throughout the entire supply chain.

In terms of operational efficiency, can you share any specific initiatives that played a significant role in the company’s achievements?

Challenge Group has implemented several key initiatives that have played a significant role in our achievements. One noteworthy initiative is the establishment of fast lanes within our infrastructures in Liege, streamlining the movement of goods and reducing processing times.

In addition to that, the implementation of a second-line warehouse optimizes the sorting and distribution process and offers our customers an additional storage area dedicated to specific operations such as the staging equipment build-up process. Furthermore, special equipment tailored to our unique requirements has enhanced our overall efficiency in handling various types of complex heavy and oversized shipments.

In the realm of digital tools, we have successfully integrated cutting-edge software solutions. This includes the incorporation of 3D software for special loading requirements ensuring meticulous handling of unique shipments and enabling us to give a quick response to customers’ queries, and specialized software to calculate the most efficient routes, not only minimizing transit times but also contributing to fuel efficiency.

With 2023 being a year of growth, how did Challenge Group expand its market share, and in which regions or sectors was this most notable?

Two-thirds of the Group’s business is concentrated in diverse verticals including live animals, automotive, aerospace, artworks, temperature-controlled shipments, valuables, and dangerous goods. In these verticals, Challenge Group stands as a recognized and trusted business partner. Anticipating the growth trajectory of the complex vertical segment, we are confident that our certified expertise and established capabilities will continue to secure additional market share.

While we foresee growth across various verticals, the most significant surge is anticipated in the e-commerce sector. This dynamic market presents an exceptional opportunity for expansion, and we are strategically positioned to capitalize on this trend.

Are there any technological advancements or industry shifts that influenced the company’s approach in 2023, and how is this expected to continue in 2024?

Challenge Group will continue to navigate external industry challenges amid global geopolitical uncertainty and economic volatility. Internally, Challenge Group is proactively addressing these challenges through a strategic fleet expansion, paving the way for the incorporation of new markets and destinations custom-tailored to meet customer requirements. Additionally, we have plans in place for a new digital sales channel and sustainability initiatives, both designed to bolster and elevate the overall customer experience.

Are there any plans for expanding the fleet or enhancing workforce capabilities in the near future?

Challenge Group is currently undertaking a strategic fleet expansion initiative, a pivotal move that will, in turn, facilitate the inclusion of new markets and destinations specifically tailored to meet the diverse requirements of our valued customers. In recent years, Challenge Group has diversified its fleet with the addition of a B767-300BDSF aircraft in August 2023, the continuation of the conversion program with two aircraft undergoing simultaneous conversion, and the full fleet of four B767 aircraft expected to be fully operational by Q3/2024.

Given the growing emphasis on sustainability, what initiatives is the Challenge Group undertaking to minimize its environmental footprint?

In alignment with our core values and dedication to sustainability, Challenge Group is actively implementing initiatives designed to support and enhance the overall customer experience. A key aspect of this strategy involves the introduction of eco-friendly practices in our operations in Liege, such as the integration of electric cars and equipment on the ramp both for Challenge handling and Challenge Technic contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions associated with ground operations, investing in electrical tractors for ground operations, and incorporating the use of Ground Power Units (GPU).

How does the company balance economic growth with environmentally conscious practices in the aviation logistics sector?

Challenge Group recognizes the imperative of harmonizing economic growth with environmental responsibility in the aviation logistics sector. We are dedicated to achieving sustainable growth that benefits our stakeholders, the industry, and the planet we share.

Are there plans to diversify revenue streams beyond the current service offerings, and if so, which areas are being explored?

Currently, our primary focus is on consolidating our offer and refining our value proposition within the airfreight and logistics industry. However, we remain ready to proactively tackle new challenges that may arise, always seeking opportunities that can bring mutual benefits to our business partners.

Can you elaborate on Challenge Group’s international presence and how it manages relationships with stakeholders in different countries?

Challenge Group boasts a robust network that spans key regions globally. Our international presence is strategically designed to cater to diverse markets and meet the evolving needs of our clients worldwide. Managing relationships with stakeholders in different countries is a cornerstone of our success. We approach this with a tailored strategy that recognizes and respects the unique cultural and business environment of each region.

Could you provide insights into the company’s plans for expansion, new service offerings, or potential

strategic partnerships in 2024?

In 2024, we are set to embark on a series of strategic initiatives to bolster our operations. A new hangar and a state-of-the-art maintenance station are in the pipeline for Challenge Technic, underscoring our commitment to expanding and enhancing our aviation services.

The imminent opening of additional destinations is a direct result of the recent expansion of Challenge Group’s fleet. This growth not only amplifies our reach but also signifies our dedication to proviading diverse and extensive options for our customers.

Moreover, Challenge Logistics is spearheading advancements in our technological infrastructure with a substantial investment in cutting-edge solutions like the Project44 tool. This innovative technology is poised to revolutionize our operations, offering seamless visibility and unparalleled transparency to our valued customers.

These comprehensive plans for 2024 reflect our unwavering dedication to growth, technological excellence, efficiency and sustainability, ensuring that Challenge continues to set industry benchmarks and provide top-notch services to our discerning customers.

Air cargo demand surges 10.8% in December, closes 2023 near 2022 levels

Geneva, Switzerland: Global demand for air cargo surged by 10.8 percent in December, the strongest annual growth performance over the past two years, thus, pulling the industry’s 2023 closure to near 2022 levels, the International Air Transport Association reported.

IATA also noted a particularly strong fourth-quarter performance for air cargo despite economic uncertainties. Full-year demand reached a level just slightly below 2022 and 2019.

Global full-year demand in 2023, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs), was down 1.9% compared to 2022 (-2.2% for international operations). Compared to 2019, it was down 3.6% (-3.8 for international operations).

Capacity in 2023, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), was 11.3% above 2022 (+9.6% for international operations). Compared to 2019 (pre-COVID) levels, capacity was up 2.5% (0.0% for international operations).

December 2023 saw an exceptionally strong performance: global demand was 10.8% above 2022 levels (+11.5% for international operations). This was the strongest annual growth performance over the past two years. Global capacity was 13.6% above 2022 levels (+14.1% for international operations).

Some indicators to note include:

“Despite political and economic challenges, 2023 saw air cargo markets regain ground lost in 2022 after the extraordinary COVID peak in 2021. Although full year demand was shy of pre-COVID levels by 3.6%, the significant strengthening in the last quarter is a sign that markets are stabilizing towards more normal demand patterns. That puts the industry on very solid ground for success in 2024. But with continued, and in some cases intensifying, instability in geopolitics and economic forces, little should be taken for granted in the months ahead,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

2023 Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific airlines posted a 0.9% increase in demand in 2023 compared to 2022 (-1.4% for international operations) and a capacity increase of 28.5% (+16.6% for international operations). In December, airlines in the region recorded the best performance of all regions, posting an 18.5% increase in demand (+15.4% for international operations) compared to 2022. Capacity increased 31.1% (+22.9% for international operations) during the same period.

North American carriers reported the worst year-on-year performance of all regions, with a 5.7% decrease in demand in 2023 compared to 2022 (-4.3% for international operations) and a capacity increase of 0.3% (+2.7% for international operations). In December airlines in the region reported a 2.0% decrease in demand (+5.9% international operations), compared to 2022. Capacity increased 2.4% (+8.5% for international operations) during the same period.

European carriers posted a 3.9% decrease in demand in 2023 compared to 2022 (-4.1% for international operations). During the same period, airlines posted a capacity increase of 4.5% for both global and international operations. In December, airlines in the region posted an 8.6% increase in demand (+8.7% for international operations) compared to 2022. Capacity increased 7.4% (+7.5% for international operations) during the same period. Airlines in the region continued to be most affected by the war in Ukraine.

Middle Eastern carriers reported an increase in demand of 1.6% for global and international demand in 2023 compared to 2022 and an increase in capacity of 13.5% (+13.6% for international operations). In December airlines in the region posted an 18.3% increase in demand for both global and international operations compared to 2022. Capacity increased 17.7% (+17.8% for international operations) during the same period.

Latin American carriers posted the strongest year-on-year performance of all regions, with a 2.0% increase in demand in 2023 compared to 2022 (+1.9% for international operations). During the same period, airlines posted a capacity increase of 13.2% (+16.9% for international operations). In December airlines in the region posted growth in demand of 6.4% (+6.3% for international operations) compared to 2021. Capacity grew 3.5% (+4.2% for international operations) during the same period.

African airlines reported a decrease in demand of 1.8% (-2.0% for international demand) in 2023 compared to 2022 and an increase in capacity of 5.6% (+5.0% for international operations). In December airlines in the region posted the weakest performance of all with a 1.2% decrease in demand (-1.4% for international operations) compared to 2021. Capacity grew 7.4% (+6.8% for international operations) during the same period.

Red Sea Disruption

In November and December air cargo experienced a modest rise in demand and yields due to disruptions in the Red Sea*. The following was observed when comparing data for the week commencing 4 November 2023 and the week ending 9 December 2023:

Data for the last half of December showed a normalization of demand and yields.

“The recent disruption to maritime routes in the Red Sea has seen some shippers pivot to air cargo. The increased demand saw a spike in air cargo yields on related trade lanes. A similar spike is expected in January as disruptions intensified. While not all cargo is suitable for air transport, it is a vital option for some of the most urgent shipments in extraordinary circumstances. And that is critical to the continuity of the global economy, said Walsh.

Fueling a Greener Future: DB Schenker Ignites Sustainable Transformation in Air Cargo

As the pandemic’s grip on the world tightened, the aviation industry found itself in a freefall. Passenger flights were gone, the air cargo industry’s belly-hold capacity vanished, and traditional models crumbled.

In this maelstrom, DB Schenker, a global leader in logistics solutions which is part of the German Deutsche Bahn Group, defied the odds with a boldness that not only ensured its survival but also propelled it to new heights.

From the ashes of the crisis, DB Schenker’s adaptability rose like a light. In a mere year, it went from scrambling to fill capacity gaps to operating its own global freighter network, a fleet of iron wings stretching across continents with nearly 60 weekly flights.

This wasn’t just reactive improvisation; it was a masterclass in calculated risks, strategic alliances with key airlines, and a laser focus on efficiency. While others clung to outdated models, DB Schenker embraced the new normal, forging a future where resilience and agility became the cornerstones of success.

In an exclusive interview with Air Cargo Update, Bjorn Eckbauer, Senior Vice President of Global Operations and Procurement, Air Global Freight, demystifies DB Schenker’s sustained investment to air cargo. He reveals the strategic levers and transformative actions propelling DB Schenker towards a greener horizon, redefining what’s possible in sustainable air cargo.

Freighter Network Evolution

DB Schenker’s swift response to the initial challenges posed by the pandemic, where the depletion of belly-hold capacity and passenger flights prompted the establishment of its own freighter network. From one year initially intended, the program evolved into a global operation with nearly 60 flights per week, connecting major hubs in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

“We embarked on long-term charter contracts to meet the evolving demands,” Eckbauer reveals, highlighting the adaptability that became the hallmark of their operations.

“In those initial stages, the challenges were monumental. The absence of flights meant a depletion of lower deck capacity and passenger flights, which were traditionally relied upon. We had to establish our own freighter network swiftly, departing from conventional ACMI arrangements,” explains Eckbauer.

This initiative, initially designed for a one-year duration, surpassed expectations as the pandemic persisted. “Ultimately, our operations expanded to nearly 60 flights per week on a global scale. Primarily concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere connecting the US, Europe, and China, we also established connections into the Southern Hemisphere,” he shares, revealing the extensive scope of their adaptive measures.

Adapting to a New Normal

The narrative unfolds as DB Schenker recounts the transformative experiences and key learnings from the pandemic. The logistics giant shares insights into its shift away from traditional models, emphasizing adaptability and a strategic focus on a limited number of carriers during challenging times.

“The unexpected resurgence of the market prompted another reconsideration of our strategy,” Eckbauer remarks, illustrating the dynamic decision-making necessitated by the rapidly changing industry landscape.

Shedding light on the significant shifts in their operational approach, Eckbauer explains, “Historically, we operated with a vast array of carriers for both main and lower deck capacities. However, the disappearance of this model due to the profound impact of the pandemic necessitated a comprehensive reevaluation.”

“Our approach involved relying on capacity agreements with various airlines, sometimes accounting for up to 80% of capacity, particularly on passenger airlines. With the disappearance of this model due to the profound impact of the pandemic, a comprehensive reevaluation was imperative,” Eckbauer emphasizes, underscoring the necessity for strategic reassessment.

Market Dynamics and Revenue Strategies

Eckbauer addresses the complexities of fluctuating market rates, the challenges of predicting market recovery, and DB Schenker’s strategies to maintain relationships with carriers amidst a shrinking market.

“Despite the overall market shrinkage of 11 to 13 percent from 2022 to 2023, we maintained relationships with carriers,” he explains, shedding light on the resilience and strategic partnerships that sustain the company’s operations.

“The emphasis on working closely with a more restricted set of partners aimed at fostering strength and resilience in our operations within the evolving market conditions,” he adds.

Providing insight into the strategic rationale behind their approach while offering a detailed analysis of the nuanced market dynamics, Eckbauer continued, “It’s essential to consider the substantial disparity in rate levels between 22 and 23, as the latter is significantly lower. The comparison becomes challenging due to the marked differences in markets between 21, 22, and 23, all of which operate in shrinking markets with declining rates.”

“In analyzing the revenue for this year, it’s essential to consider the substantial disparity in rate levels between 22 and 23, as the latter is significantly lower. The comparison becomes challenging due to the marked differences in markets between 21, 22, and 23, all of which operate in shrinking markets with declining rates. In the current scenario, carriers are less focused on revenue and instead prioritize assessing tonnage. The primary concern is whether they experience growth in tonnage by collaborating with us or not,” he added.

Eckbauer further elaborates, “There’s a slight uptick in the market in terms of rates, albeit not constituting a genuine peak season. However, making a direct comparison proves challenging due to the unique circumstances. We transitioned from exceptionally high rates during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which experienced a drastic decline last year in September and continued to drop significantly into 2023.”

“Anticipating the trajectory, we’ll maintain the current level until mid-December, encompassing this modest peak season or whatever designation we assign to it. Beyond that point, January poses a significant question mark, challenging to predict accurately,” Eckbauer estimates.

Eckbauer offers a comprehensive overview of the industry’s future trajectory, emphasizing, “Over the past three years, our predictions have yielded varying degrees of success across different markets. Examining the global economy, it appears doubtful that a resurgence will occur before the summer of the following year. No discernible signs indicate a swift recovery—automotive sectors are experiencing a downturn, and major high-tech entities report diminished volumes. Post-Chinese New Year, a rapid ramp-up toward a normal market doesn’t seem imminent; rather, it appears that such a transition will require a considerable amount of time.”

Green Logistics and Sustainable Practices

DB Schenker’s unwavering commitment to green logistics takes center stage in their significant efforts. Three years ago, the company pioneered this initiative with a groundbreaking collaboration with Lufthansa, introducing an exclusive flight operating between Frankfurt and PVG.

According to Eckbauer, “Our commitment to green logistics is a significant focus of our efforts. What sets this venture apart is the utilization of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) equivalent to the full consumption of the aircraft. In fact, we exceeded a 100% offset, going above and beyond in our efforts. To minimize emissions, we integrated this eco-friendly fuel into the Frankfurt fuel network. Although direct burning of this fuel by the aircraft is technically unfeasible, our approach effectively eliminated, to the greatest extent possible, the emissions associated with that particular flight.”

This proactive measure showcases their commitment to offsetting carbon emissions and contributing to a sustainable future.

Customer Engagement Dynamics

Eckbauer discusses the dynamics of customer engagement in the journey toward sustainability. “It’s a mixed scenario,” he noted. “The majority of our clients have set clear carbon-neutral goals by either 2030 or 2035. While a significant number are actively investing in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and are willing to bear the associated costs, there remains a sizable portion that hesitates due to the considerable expense involved.”

Considering various factors such as routing, the additional cost typically ranges from EUR 150 to 160 per kilo—a substantial amount, especially for the cargo in question. In some instances, this cost even exceeds current rates for air freight. Despite these challenges, ongoing dialogue and a growing awareness of sustainable practices are marking positive developments.

Eckbauer notes, “We are witnessing a gradual shift with more clients, including smaller ones (clients with lower monthly volumes), expressing interest and making inquiries about incorporating SAF into their shipments. Since our initial venture, we’ve expanded our capabilities, and now, within our global network, every client has the option to offset CO2 emissions by choosing SAF for their shipments, marking a step forward in our sustainability efforts.”

Operational Sustainability Initiatives

Beyond championing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), DB Schenker actively explores diverse initiatives for environmental sustainability. The company is on the forefront of researching alternatives to foil in ULD (Unit Load Device) construction, aiming to minimize the ecological footprint. As stated by Eckbauer, “Our ongoing tests with eco-friendly alternatives underscore our commitment to creating positive environmental impacts. Simultaneously, we’re in the process of phasing out traditional wooden bars in ULDs, opting for sustainable cardboard alternatives.”

This commitment isn’t confined to internal changes. Collaborative endeavors with airlines identify key areas for supply chain improvements. DB Schenker also extends its sustainability pledge to trucking companies, urging them to adopt environmentally friendly practices. Initiatives like harnessing solar power on warehouse roofs and transitioning to LED bulbs showcase the dedication.

Recognizing that sustainability necessitates collective efforts, DB Schenker and Eckbauer actively pursue diverse avenues beyond SAF.

“While SAF remains pivotal, our multi-pronged approach ensures ongoing enhancements to environmental practices, contributing to a greener future,” Eckbauer emphasizes.

Strategic Vision and Industry Advice

When contemplating DB Schenker’s journey toward carbon neutrality, specific goals become pivotal. As outlined by Eckbauer, “Having clear objectives is paramount in our sustainability journey. While comprehensive change takes time, we’re making significant strides across various domains. In land freight, especially for inner-city logistics, the integration of electric vehicles is increasingly becoming a norm to mitigate our environmental impact. We adopt electric vehicle technology wherever feasible, even though its application in long-term line hauls is still evolving.”

In addition to transforming the land freight landscape, DB Schenker addresses environmental concerns within its operations. Eckbauer explains, “We’re actively phasing out traditional diesel or gas-run forklifts, replacing them with electric alternatives. These strategic shifts align with our commitment to minimizing the carbon footprint and embracing sustainable practices. Our approach is systematic, recognizing that progress is achieved through targeted initiatives across various facets of our operations.”

In anticipating forthcoming challenges in the air cargo industry, DB Schenker employs key strategies for the next six months. Eckbauer’s perspective urges the industry to break free from stagnation, stating, “We’ve remained unchanged for far too long, lagging in adopting common standards. The air freight community must foster improvement and catch up with evolving standards in other industries that have rapidly embraced change over the last decade.”

Expanding Horizons

Apart from DB Schenker’s strategic expansion into promising regions like Saudi Arabia, the company also places a significant emphasis on strengthening its presence in Ethiopia in the African continent.

Eckbauer acknowledges, “While a recent deal in Ethiopia eluded us, we remain actively engaged in these markets. The developments in Saudi Arabia, especially, are noteworthy, poised to become a hub akin to Dubai in the next five years due to its ambitious plans and rapidly growing economy.”

In regards to partnerships, Eckbauer confirmed its established setup in Saudi Arabia. Notably, recent regulatory changes allowing consolidated shipments instead of limiting arrangements to back-to-back present new opportunities.

“This regulatory shift, though promising, requires some fine-tuning. Ongoing efforts aim to navigate and optimize these changes, as they allow for deconsolidation within Saudi Arabia. We remain optimistic about leveraging these new possibilities for our operations in the region,” Eckbauer concludes, encapsulating the forward-looking perspective that defines DB Schenker’s approach to expanding its global footprint.

The experience of DB Schenker in air cargo is proof of its tenacity, flexibility, and perseverance to a more environmentally friendly future. Not only has it survived the storms, but it has come out stronger, changing the whole meaning of success in a changed environment. This story of creativity, smart alliances, and sustainability speaks not just of the here and now, but also of DB Schenker’s long-lasting history of raising the bar.