“small, lean & beautiful” cargo carrier

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Today Brussels Airlines has a fleet of 48 aircrafts and operates some 300 flights per day to more than 60 destinations in Europe and 19 in Africa, apart from New York and Washington. The carrier has earned the reputation of being an “Africa Specialist” for its enviable services and product offerings to African destinations. Herman Hoornaert, its head of cargo, has a long career in a variety of roles both in Africa and across Europe. Hoornaert leads the cargo business of Brussels Airlines with a focus to create unique shipper-focused services. He talks about strengthening the cargo business and preparing itself to face any competition.

Give us a sense of the volume of cargo that you carry annually? And do you see growth in volume year over year? In 2014 we carried 38700 tonnes of cargo which was an increase of 3200 tonnes more than what we carried in 2013. As we have a cargo load of over 95 percent, especially to Africa, it would be difficult to increase this tonnage.

What are some of your short and long term goals for Brussels Airlines Cargo? We are strengthening and promoting our time sensitive “Cargo Premium” product in Europe. We participated in the IATA/Brussels Airport Pharma Gateway project making Brussels Airport the first Pharma certified hub in the world. Brussels Airlines is also certified by the same independent IATA CEIV validator. We do want to tap more into pharma commodities.

What is your outlook for the fiscal 2015? The 2015 cargo goals are challenging, but we are optimistic. We are also closely following the new developments of offering ‘all in’ CARGO rates.

Brussels Airlines Cargo services a spectrum of cargo commodities, but are there any specific commodities that you would intend to focus either in this fiscal or in the near future? Brussels Airport, the home base from where we operate, is situated in the pharma valley of W-Europe and we are currently intensifying our efforts to offer the producers of pharma products a reliable logistical solution.

What are some of your specific plans to increase the volume of business for Brussels Airlines Cargo in the increasingly competitive air cargomarket where defection to ocean freight is also on the increase? 

The Brussels Airlines network is mainly an African niche network (19 African destinations - we also have two transatlantic services New York & Washington), where we do not feel too much of the ocean freight competition.

Give us a sense of some of your high yield commodities and how do you plan to increase the revenue from such commodities? As stated in our answer to question two, we focus on time-sensitive commodities in Europe, just-in-time hospital supplies, spare parts etc. Shippers and forwarders are willing to pay a little extra for the Cargo Premium product and for the more personal service we deliver since we are “small, lean and beautiful”.

Which are some of your crucial traffic routes where maximum volume of cargo is transported? It is very challenging to answer all the booking requests to the countries fighting Ebola. In the case of Monrovia in Liberia and Freetown in Sierra Leone, we are the only European carrier still serving these destinations with wide body regular services. In order not to disappoint our regular customers and to reduce backlog, we also buy blocked spaces on occasional full freighters serving these destinations.

Are there any plans to increase your network of partners to reach out to more destination cities to take advantage of the dynamic global trade? We have interline agreements and SPA with 30 carriers to 389 destinations worldwide and are continuously monitoring and adjusting this. These agreements help us to offer an increasing number of one-stop shopping possibilities to our clients.

Brussels Airlines has a reputation for being the Africa specialist, do you plan to leverage this position to increase cargo capacity and add more destinations in Africa either through partnerships or directly? We are eagerly awaiting additional A330 aircraft to join our fleet to be able to have more capacity and flexibility to and from Africa. Since we are 95 percent full, we are looking for opportunities by blocking space on occasional freighters.

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