Every aircraft – even if it is loaded up to the last seat with passengers and their luggage – carries air freight. Thus a fully laden Boeing 777 can transport an additional 24.5 tonnes of air freight. For an Airbus A340 it is 22 tonnes. On short-haul flights too aircraft have guaranteed freight capacities, an Airbus A320 for example 2.4 tonnes or the new CS100 1.3 tonnes. If an aircraft has fewer passengers on board, even more freight can be loaded.
However, this freight capacity has to be sold first. Within the SWISS Group this task is assigned to the independent division SWISS WorldCargo. It does not transact any secondary business but is a cornerstone of the activities of SWISS. Or as Ashwin Bhat, Head of Swiss WorldCargo puts it: “The air freight business is a crucial factor as to whether a destination can be profitably served or not.” In Europe and the USA the air freight network is supplemented by daily road transport connections between important centres that cannot be served economically by aircraft. Thus in Europe in addition to the SWISS route network around 30 heavy goods vehicles are in transit on behalf of Swiss WorldCargo.
Demanding niche areas
Air freight is a highly competitive business, the competition intense. “So we do not want to work primarily in the commodity business but to focus on the transport of high-value consignments and those requiring special care,” stresses Bhat. “And in particular in areas that are of special interest to our customers. These may be special airport-to-airport express services, a secure and discreet service for consignments of valuables, products for goods at risk of theft or temperature-sensitive or the reliable conveyance of airmail.”
Against this background, SWISS WorldCargo is in cooperation with freight forwarders developing solutions that can better meet the air cargo needs of selected industries. At the moment the focus is on the areas of pharmaceuticals and healthcare, high-value commercial goods, banking and luxury goods and postal business. This last is showing particularly large growth potential because of booming e-commerce.
Swiss secures most of its air freight business via international, national and regional freight forwarders and logistics companies. However, in its export office in Zurich the company also accepts private customers: emigrants, holidaymakers who would like to take their dog on holidays overseas or bikers who want to drive along Route 66 on their own Harley. For handling the freight from acceptance to loading on to the aircraft, SWISS WorldCargo relies on partners such as Cargologic and Swissport who are very familiar with the freight business.
Trust based on performance
A recent customer survey showed that SWISS WorldCargo was designated as a “trusted brand” by their customers. “We are pleased with this praise but it is also an obligation,” says Bhat. While in air freight business everything turns round speed, flexibility and reliability, it remains unquestionably a “people business” based on trust.
To bring to bear the competitive advantages, Bhat is building primarily on his employees and his handling partners: “I can rely on a team of motivated staff who unite great sector know-how with many years’ experience in the air freight business”. It is this team that, together with the handling partners, makes the difference in the provision of services for the benefit of the customers, he says. “The aircraft all fly the same speed,” he smiles, “so we must make the difference on the ground.”
SWISS WorldCargo does all it can to further improve on the “flown-as-planned” rate of a high 97% and to optimise the service for its customers at the same time. For example with the introduction of a new eBooking tool or even better monitoring of the consignments. Always with the aim of being able to guarantee its customers Swiss Quality – and to be the preferred air cargo partner of Swiss SMEs.
Four questions to Ashwin Bhat, Head of Swiss WorldCargo
You have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. How did you end up in the airline business?
In 1992 in Mumbai, absolutely by accident.
What is the greatest asset of Swiss WorldCargo?
The trust that our customers place in us. Our staff develop this trust day in day out with their know-how, their flexibility and their motivation.
When did you last transport elephants?
Because of its size, an elephant would not fit in our freight spaces. We only transport wild animals for zoos, strictly observing the official regulations for the transport of animals.
If you were not in the airline business, where would you be?
I actually wanted to be a film director when I was young. Perhaps that would have worked out then.