Etihad Cargo

Flying Higher than Ever

An Interview with Etihad Airways’ VP Cargo, Mr. David Kerr

Founded in 2004, Etihad Cargo has made all the right moves over the past decade to become the well-known and trusted air cargo carrier it is today. In spite of the global economy’s sluggish recovery, Etihad Cargo’s fleet and connectivity have rapidly expanded along with its cargo volumes. In this exclusive interview with Airfreight Logistics, Mr. David Kerr, Vice President Cargo at Etihad Airways, reveals that Etihad Cargo’s success comes from building strong networks, strong relationships with customers and strong investments.

Mr. Kerr is an industry veteran with a diverse set of skills and a wide range of experience. Launching his career at Unilever has provided him with a unique insight into his customers’ needs, and prior to joining Etihad Cargo, Mr. Kerr worked with another airline on both the passenger and cargo sides. “I’ve been with Etihad Cargo for over four years. I first joined the business in a senior commercial role, then two and a half years ago I took on the responsibility of running the division. Working at Etihad Cargo has been a fantastic journey. We’re on an amazing path of growth and investment, which in turn has led to great success,” says Mr. Kerr.

David Kerr, Vice President Cargo, Etihad Airways

David Kerr, Vice President Cargo, Etihad Airways

Connectivity is Key

Today, globalization is king, with supply chains criss-crossing the globe amid complex sourcing and distribution patterns. Therefore, top air cargo carriers such as Etihad Cargo need to have far-reaching networks and schedules that provide timely access to all of the locations that their customers require. Through its cargo hub in Abu Dhabi, the airline is able to offer convenient connections to more than 100 destinations all over the world, operated on a modern fleet of 103 aircraft, which includes 10 freighters.

Mr. Kerr explains, “In terms of speed and schedule, three years ago we created the Fast-Track service, which is our priority product. Fast-track offers later cutoff times, quicker connections, preferential access to capacity and early recovery on a guaranteed basis through our network. These features allow us to better serve the speed critical manufacturing market. The depth and breadth of our schedule, combined with the products that we have, allow us to offer ideal solutions to our customers – that’s one of the keys to our success.”

Despite its success, the carrier has not stopped working to improve its service offerings.

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Mr. Kerr continues, “What we’ve found is that in general, schedule is ultimately the key determining factor in choice. Of course, there are many other factors that customers consider, but schedule is crucial. That’s why the airline continues to build up its schedule with increased frequencies. Bangkok, for example offers three connections daily, which allow customers to connect through our hub at various times throughout the day.”

“Thailand is a very important market for us. Etihad Cargo has three daily Bangkok services operating through our hub in Abu Dhabi, and we also manage the capacity on an operation into Phuket that’s jointly-run with Air Berlin. Later this year, that service will actually become an Etihad Cargo service, which will increase our frequency on the connecting market into Berlin. Etihad Cargo can offer significant capacity through Abu Dhabi and a tremendous amount of connectivity onto points beyond.” With a balanced combination of belly and freighter capacity, an extensive global network and a carefully-designed schedule, Etihad Cargo can optimize its solutions and find the best options for each customer’s specific needs.

How Crucial is Communication?

In the global marketplace, relationships and communication have become even more important than ever. By investing in the latest technologies, Etihad Cargo is not only able to boost efficiency, but also improve communication channels for their customers. “People like to interact with us in different ways, so we want to make sure that we’re available by whatever mode our customers choose, whether that’s by email, over the phone or online. We offer those channels along with a customer service desk that operates 24/7 to serve our global customer base. Etihad Cargo also provides track and trace capabilities on our website. It’s important that we offer choice through different channels, which is why we’re looking at implementing additional web tools and mobile applications.”

When looking into new technologies, Etihad Cargo prefers to get customer input on potential investments. The carrier places a priority on open discussion with their customers. “Etihad Cargo is always looking to invest in new platforms, improve our connectivity and communication with our customer base. We’re in the process of talking to our customers what features they need moving forward, so that we can select the tools that will provide the most benefit to them. The key is to enable an ongoing conversation with our customers about their needs and requirements and also check in with them to gather feedback from time to time,” Mr. Kerr comments.

By keeping in close contact with their clients, Etihad Cargo has a better understanding of exactly what their clients need. This allows the carrier to effectively shape its service network and solutions to stay ahead of the competition. One example is Etihad Cargo’s new Sky Stables service, which has been designed specifically to meet the requirements of the equine industry.

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It’s also important for Etihad Cargo to keep close contact with customers so that when client requirements change, the airline’s services can change as well. When manufacturers adjust their supply chains and select new manufacturing sites, airlines’ connections should promptly shift along with them. Mr. Kerr elaborates, “Recently there have been some changes in manufacturing platforms. Companies are shifting the locations of their manufacturing bases. We recognize the need to stay updated on this evolution and deploy assets accordingly. For example, we recently launched two weekly services from Hanoi in direct response to Vietnam’s strong growth as a manufacturing base and the need for air freight in this market.”

Aside from being a leader in connectivity and resources, Etihad Cargo’s secret for success lies in maintaining close relationships and ensuring open communication with customers. Mr. Kerr concludes, “What we’re trying to do is become the most trusted global carrier, and personal contact is vital to that. We have the global scale and capabilities expected of a top air carrier, but we still remain flexible, dynamic and engaged with our customers. To date, our customer feedback has been largely positive, but we take nothing for granted. Etihad Cargo is always aiming to set the bar even higher.”