In the first half of 2021, Etihad Cargo recorded a 20 percent increase in tonnage and reclaimed 90 percent of pre-Covid destinations compared to the same period in 2019. In November 2020, Martin Drew took charge as the senior vice president for sales and cargo at Etihad Aviation Group. Before being appointed to the current role, Drew headed Etihad Airways' global sales organisation across 17 countries in Europe and Americas. From 2005 - 2014, he held various senior positions at Etihad Cargo. During this time, he headed all commercial freighter activities and was responsible for freighter network planning, managing the airlines strategic fleet development whilst formulating and executing business strategies. As a member of the Etihad Aviation Group executive management team, he oversees passenger sales, Etihad Cargo and Etihad Secure Logistics, in addition to several business development opportunities at the Abu Dhabi hub. Drew talks on capacity expansion, changing customer demand and network partnerships.

What is the total volume of cargo – in the belly-hold and in freighters – carried in the first half of 2021?

During the first half of this year, we recorded a 20 per cent increase in tonnage and reclaimed 90 percent of pre-Covid destinations compared to the same period in 2019. We carried 365,500 tonnes of cargo – over 100,000 more tonnes compared to the same period last year, representing an increase of 44 percent. The pandemic has stimulated strong demand for pharmaceutical-related shipments, in addition to perishables, garments, ecommerce, and general cargo.

Currently, with ecommerce and perishables gaining traction apart from medicinal supplies, how are you looking forward to handling these shipments?

Cool chain products, both pharma and perishables shipments have remained a key focus for Etihad Cargo. Through our CEIV IATA certified pharma and fresh products - PharmaLife and FreshForward, we have continued to provide our customers with end-to-end temperature-controlled solutions across our global network. In addition, FreshForward maintains stringent food and safety management protocols as per HACCP methodology for the shipment of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish, meat, and flowers.

We are continuously looking at innovative solutions that will enhance our product offerings to provide a heightened solution to tarmac critical points by procuring real mitigation on external weather conditions for our FreshForward and PharmaLife shipments.

Ecommerce has been picking up pace since before the pandemic, and carriers must continue adapting networks and schedules to manage the growing volumes. At a macro industry level, we predict increased preferences for reshoring or near-shoring supply chains to build resilience and agility amid potential turmoil – be that a pandemic, or geopolitical. It is a question of reducing risk, and we see valuable collaborations with e-commerce players coming into effect to mitigate risk wherever possible.

You are one of the partners in the HOPE Consortium. How many Covid-19 vaccine doses have been handled globally and what is the new initiative about?

To date, through our involvement in the HOPE Consortium, we have handled around 65 million vaccine doses across 40 countries. We have also announced a joint in-country vaccine initiative through the consortium to provide a unique Covid-19 immunisation solution that combines end-to-end vaccine delivery with the rapid on-ground deployment of medical and logistics experts, staff and equipment.

Ecommerce has been picking up pace since before the pandemic, and carriers must continue adapting networks and schedules to manage the growing volumes.

This will provide those countries and communities that have limited medical and logistical capacities with the support, guidance and tools to be able to safely and efficiently inoculate their populations. And, it is already proving successful. Currently, a mobile team of 15 doctors and nurses are on the ground in Africa working with local authorities to establish medical hubs for immunisation. In addition to facilitating the inoculation, these hubs will also maintain administrative records in line with local regulations. It is great to see this progress.

Did the pandemic allow you to seriously look at your digital capabilities? How did you enhance your digital platforms to offer better customer experience and forge new partnerships?

Digitalisation has been at the core of Etihad Cargo's strategy during the last three to five years and continues to be a focus in streamlining processes and our customer journey. The pandemic has had a significant impact on our rollout, enabling us to escalate partnerships and product launches ahead of schedule.

Our dedication to innovating our services and product proposition has been driven by our customers. This includes the development of 24x7 online booking functionalities via our booking portal on the Etihad Cargo website and through our partners such as CargoWise,, WebCargo by Freightos, Cargo.Ai among others.

Etihad Cargo continues to work with the partners and invest in digital advancements to not only enhance our internal operations but also streamline our customer experiences. One of our latest advancements has been the new booking platform which provides an improved process flow to decrease the amount of time spent on bookings. We are also working on various connectivity partnerships allowing all processes to be increasingly smooth and digital.

In fact, in September we will be launching a new Etihad Cargo’s website which further streamlines the booking process through an enriched user experience.

How is Etihad developing partnerships and building initiatives to position Abu Dhabi as a logistics hub?

Partnerships are vital in economic growth, the HOPE Consortium is a strong example of how private-public sector collaboration has been able to address the global challenge of vaccine distribution and cemented Abu Dhabi as a pharmaceutical logistics hub. Our expertise in pharmaceutical logistics and IATA CEIV Pharma certification has supported the success and our ability to collaborate with wider stakeholders across the logistics supply chain to provide last mile solutions while maintaining product integrity through the most efficient process.

We are looking into expanding our capacity to address the growing customer demand and are also expanding our partnership network. Long term partnerships are a key focus for Etihad Cargo and have supported our strategy throughout the recent period. This trade-off between long-term and short-term is well understood by the leadership team at Etihad Cargo, and it is reflected in our regularly updated targets. This allows us to serve profitable last-minute traffic while supporting our key partners in the long term.

It’s going to be a year since you took charge of the current position in Etihad. With several years of experience in cargo operations, what are your plans for the carrier and how do you intend to position Etihad Cargo as the preferred carrier for shippers?

The current situation has presented several opportunities for agile players in the air cargo industry, and our flexibility has enabled us to adapt for the benefit of our customers. We want to continue to build on these strengths in a post-Covid world and focus on being more customer-centric to ensure we are the air cargo partner of choice. There is so much uncertainty as to what the future of the air cargo market will look like, but certain trends are evident. The ecommerce demand will certainly continue to grow faster than anticipated.

Read Full Article