Qatar’s grand plan for cargo

Qatar Airways' freighter fleet includes eight 777Fs and six A330-200F (shown above). The carrier also has eight more 777Fs and two more A330-200Fs on firm order.

Qatar Airways’ freighter fleet includes eight 777Fs and six A330-200Fs (shown above), as well a a 747-400BDSF ACMI-leased from myCargo. Qatar also has eight more 777Fs and two more A330-200Fs on firm order.

The air cargo press was rounded up last month and sent to Doha, to see a shiny new US$1 billion cargo terminal and talk to Qatar Airways.

Unusually (but then there is nothing “usual” about Akbar Al Baker) the airline’s CEO was the main speaker at the press conference, a spot normally reserved solely for the head of cargo.

CEOs often don’t know much about cargo, but Qatar’s does. And what’s more, he believes it can be profitable. So much so, in fact, that he wants the airline to make between 25% and 30% of its revenues from cargo. The group is also set to build another, even larger cargo terminal, giving it annual capacity of 4.4m tonnes.

Al Baker also noted that the carrier had no plans for more aircraft orders at the Dubai Air Show. No wonder. It is already one of the world’s largest cargo carriers by FTKs and will have 21 freighters by 2017, with its seventh A330-200F arriving in December, another in March 2016, and its ninth through twelfth 777Fs arriving in June, July, October, and November.

Al Baker predicted, however, that some capacity would fall out of the market – he foresees two legacy carriers abandoning cargo within the next year, he said.

He also, in his usual outspoken style, accused Lufthansa and Air France-KLM of colluding to mislead the European Commission. “They are shrinking their business. But they don’t want that vacuum to be filled by anyone. I’m sure if these companies were in the US, there would be antitrust litigation against them because they are colluding by blocking competition, and keeping it out of their territory. Brussels is not weak at all, but is being misled.”

He urged the two European carriers to work with Qatar, instead of fighting, saying he’d even “do business with the devil,” if it was in the interests of the airline.

Also of interest is that Qatar Cargo is getting into the e-commerce market and working with an as-yet-unnamed partner on last-mile delivery. Testing has already been launched in London for the QR Express product, and more stations will be rolled out this year. “We want to get into the courier business, which is a high-yield, high-margin business,” said Al Baker. “We are very keen, and this is the first step. We don’t want to be the likes of FedEx, DHL or UPS, but we want to play a significant part in this very lucrative business.”

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