Nabil Sultan Takes the Helm at Emirates SkyCargo
In 1985, Emirates SkyCargo made its start as a fledgling cargo airline looking to establish itself in the industry. Today, just 28 years later, there’s no doubt that Emirates has risen to become one of the world’s top cargo airlines, with one of the industry’s largest fleets, newest aircraft and most extensive global networks. Emirates has made cargo a priority, and it shows in their success. In fact, by May 2014, the airline will transfer its freighter operations to a state-of-the-art dedicated cargo terminal at Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International Airport, a move that will allow SkyCargo to better reach and serve its customers. Clearly, big things are in store for Emirates SkyCargo, so during his recent visit to Thailand, AFL met with Mr. Nabil Sultan, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Cargo, for an exclusive interview covering a range of topics – from his new role to his vision for the future of Emirates SkyCargo.
A Wealth of Experience
In June of this year, Emirates appointed Mr. Nabil Sultan as the new head of cargo. Mr. Sultan has been with Emirates since 1990, when he joined the IT department. Previously, he had been Divisional Senior Vice President, Revenue Optimization and Distribution. Mr. Sultan elaborates, “I joined Emirates after graduation, when it was still a small emerging airline. I studied computer science, so I’m a programmer by education, and I started my career at Emirates working in IT. Two years later, I joined the management training program, and I’ve been in a number of leaderships roles since. Being at Emirates has been a wonderful journey, and I’m excited to begin a new journey as head of cargo.”
“Though this is a new role, cargo is not entirely new for me. I was responsible for both passenger and cargo sides in my positions as Senior Vice President of commercial operations in a number of regions: Europe, the West Africa and Indian Ocean region and the Gulf, Middle East and Iran region. From my experiences working for Emirates in locations all over the world, I’ve developed key regional and global perspectives. I’ve been very involved in the commercial and operational aspects of cargo in one way or another throughout my career, which has allowed me to gain an understanding of air cargo’s key drivers.”
As an industry leader, we can’t stop moving forward.
Mr. Sultan has been with Emirates almost from the start, so he’s been a part of its growth and evolution, through innovation and entrepreneurship, into a leading cargo airline. “The key task for me is really to maintain the innovative spirit of Emirates SkyCargo. We continue to look at all of our service offerings to make sure that we are innovative and efficient in all areas. For instance, we’ve been looking at new technologies for monitoring cargo temperatures for goods such as pharmaceuticals and other perishables. We want to have the best technology that helps us ensure that temperatures are well-controlled, monitored and transparent throughout the journey, so that our customers are able to check the status of their goods while sitting in their offices. It’s this sort of approach that allows us to add value for our customers through a total solution. As an industry leader, we can’t stop moving forward – in order to maintain our position we’ll continue to innovate, enhance our services, fleet and networks, and find even better ways to fulfill our customers’ needs.”
Making a Mark on the Industry
Emirates has made all the right moves to become an industry leader in air cargo. Despite the economic downturn the airline has seen a great deal of success. Mr. Sultan says, “Emirates SkyCargo is now a well-established entity around the globe. In terms of capacity, we have one of the largest fleets in the world, and our fleet of freighters continues to grow substantially throughout our ongoing plans for expansion. This year alone, we’ve received two new freighters, bringing our total freighter fleet size to 12. Next year, we’re looking to add two more. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we add nearly 20% capacity every year, and since we operate all wide-bodied aircraft, it’s a very substantial addition to our capacity. Despite the current economic conditions, we’re continuing to expand because we see an opportunity as other airlines downsize or ground aircraft. We’ve been seeing positive indicators from import and export volumes, and we’re confident that the global economy is in the beginning stages of a rebound.”
The air freight market has always been a good leading indicator of any industry movements. Out of Europe, we’ve started to see more exports, which is a very positive sign. The global economy is starting to revive, with employment numbers getting better and real estate markets improving. It’s just a matter of time before we start to see import into European and US markets coming back.
When that happens, Emirates SkyCargo will be well-positioned in terms of the capacity we offer into Asian markets, in terms of our extensive network, and in terms of our cutting edge facilities. We offer flights to a variety of new destinations all over the world, and we’re in the process of strengthening our network by expanding our reach to many emerging markets.”
This unmatched global network is an essential component of Emirates’ success. Mr. Sultan continues, “I think what gives Emirates a unique edge is our network – we’re able to reach not only major metropolitan cities, but also secondary destinations. By leveraging our networks, we’re able to deliver almost to our customers’ doorsteps, and that adds a lot of value to what we do. Of course, Thailand is one of the most important destinations in our network. With its central location, Bangkok is perfectly situated for connecting to our state-of-the-art Cargo Mega Terminal in Dubai. Presently, Emirates offers six daily flights between Dubai and Bangkok, bringing our cargo capacity to 100 tons per day – nearly equivalent to having daily freighter service. As we’ve seen demand rise over the years, we’ve steadily increased our capacity, allowing us to move a lot of cargo from different catchment areas into Bangkok, then to our hub in Dubai, and beyond to Europe, the Gulf and the Middle East, and Africa. Recently we’ve been moving a lot of cargo from Australia via Bangkok, so Thailand plays an important role in helping us utilize our capacity in the most optimal ways possible.”
Being able to add value to their services is another aspect that Emirates has become known for – so much so that it’s something customers expect. Mr. Sultan concludes, “today, anyone can move shipments from one point to another. But what our customers are looking for, and what distinguishes Emirates, is the added value. We’ve see a growing demand for that kind of complete service – we’re able to add value through the combination of our unsurpassed reach, the types of aircraft that we operate, and the efficiencies we have within our fleet. We’ll take care of everything from the very first step of the process – booking the shipments – to the very last step – safe and timely delivery. Our customers keep coming back because of our demonstrated excellence and professionalism. And of course, in combination with our new fleet and facilities and the efficiencies we’ve introduced, we’re able to be the best when it comes to offering these services.”