Air cargo service spreads its
Reports by Michael Taylor
wings across the region
GULF AIR CARGO'S operations revenue of 55.3 million Bahraini dinar ($1.1 billion) last year was 20.4 per cent more than in 2003, exceeding the carrier's targets by 5 per cent and accounting for 13 per cent of the airline's total revenue, according to the airline's head of cargo, Ali Murtada.
Volume also grew 14.9 per cent last year to a total of more than 232 million kg, of which 6.1 million kg was generated out of Hong Kong, its eighth most important market in cargo volume and second most important market in revenue, he said.
'Hong Kong is a destination on its own in terms of cargo in/out from Gulf Air's perspective, and would be very important for future expansion into the Far East,' Mr Murtada said.
Gulf Air has been playing an important role in the development of the Gulf's economy since it was established in 1950.
'With development of the oil industry in the Gulf region starting from 1932, this has led to wide-scale imports of industrial, commercial and consumer products.' Mr Murtada said. 'Gulf Air Cargo has played a vital role in transporting and developing services for the region.'
In addition to a strong regional network, Gulf Air links to the Indian subcontinent, North Africa, Asia and Australia. It has eight daily flights to Europe and code-sharing agreements with American Airlines, EgyptAir, Garuda Indonesia, KLM and Thai Airways.
It was the first airline in the Middle East to offer an express service to freight forwarding and courier companies. It offers unaccompanied courier service to customers such as DHL, UPS, FedEx, Aramex and TNT, as well as fast and easy customs clearance at destinations.
Trucking Services are provided to destinations within the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Europe. Scheduled trucking services link many of the carrier's cargo hubs with regional off-line points.
Gulf Air does not offer all-cargo flights, but may do so in the future.
'We have been assessing the introduction of freighters,' Mr Murtada said. 'This will allow [us] to better serve existing markets, enter new markets and open possibilities for ad-hoc charters as well.'
Air cargo providers are facing stiff competition. 'With no dedicated cargo-only operations, our network operations and expansions are dictated by passenger-scheduled flights. The issue will be resolved with the introduction of cargo freighters in the future,' Mr Murtada said.
Gulf Air Cargo's Hong Kong partners like dealing with the airline because of its competitive pricing, efficient service, and extensive Middle Eastern network.
'We have been dealing with Gulf Air for six years,' Fast Link Express managing director John Yang said.
'In that time we have gone from zero to their No 1 partner in Hong Kong. Their prices are reasonable and shipments are always on time.'
Raymond Kan, managing director at Able Force Freight, agreed. 'We have been doing business with Gulf Air since 1989,' he said. 'They have become our close partners because they are based in Bahrain and serve many Middle Eastern destinations.
'Their service has been efficient and reliable and their pricing is very reasonable. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to maintain our clientele.'
Every week, CTI Logistics (HK) sends a consignment of between 2,000kg and 10,000kg to Gulf Air's Bahrain hub.
'Business has been steady,' CTI general manager Siu Wing-hong said. 'But I think for this year it will go up by 10 per cent.'
CTI deals with more than 40 carriers moving freight between Hong Kong and destinations all over the world.
It has relied on Gulf Air for 15 years to handle its Middle Eastern traffic, choosing the airline because of the reasonable rates.
'I would say they are about 5 per cent cheaper than other carriers,' Mr Siu said.