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Trade & Logistics Interview Swiss Air Cargo by Mr.Dwight

Alexander Arafa Brings a Lifetime of Experiences to his New Position at Swiss WorldCargo

The air cargo industry can feel like a roller coaster at times. Taking the ride through the good times and the bad and persevering through takes real heart and desire; something not everyone possesses. Swiss WorldCargo, like many other airlines, has gone through both ups and downs throughout their long history, but the people behind the scenes have led the airline to the success story that it is today. One of the newest appointments from the company was promoting Mr. Alexander Arafa to the new Head of Area and Contribution Management. We recently had a chance to sit down with him to discuss his place in the team and where he foresees Swiss WorldCargo headed in the future.

From Passenger to Cargo

Mr. Arafa began his airline career some 33 years ago as a sales representative and eventually became a country manager. At the end of 1999, Mr. Arafa joined Swissair as Head of Sales Europe. He was in charge of Product Development at Swiss from 2001 to 2005, and then served three years as Vice President Sales Europe before being promoted as Head of Cabin Crew in 2008. From here, Mr. Arafa made the leap to the cargo side of the business to his current position as Head of Area & Contribution Management.

Mr. Arafa sees this as a great advantage having experience on both sides of the business and says,” Coming from both the sales and passenger side of the business, I can tell you that relationships matter. Even though there’s a lot of direct business being done online, it’s still a business built upon relationships. I see these similarities now that I’m on the cargo side of the business as well. Coming from the cabin crew where this makes us unique in Europe at least, is the personal touch we have. I think we have a good reputation and I want to bring that with me to the cargo side; that element of personal service in an era where a lot of times you don’t have a human in the loop anymore.”

Swiss event

(left) Tod Mawhinney, Director Head of Cargo Far East; (middle) Alexander Arafa, Head of Area and Contribution Management; (right) Christian Hisserich, Manager Cargo Singapore at Swiss WorldCargo

Differentiating Yourself

SWISS is in a unique position when it comes to airlines, as they are able to straddle the line in terms of marketing and position. As Mr. Arafa says, “SWISS is not a mega or regional carrier, we’re kind of in the middle in terms of size. We have an extensive network through Europe and we connect all the major business hubs, but you can really only differentiate yourself from the competition through your people. Giving our people the ability to make decisions locally in a very efficient way will continue to make us a preferred partner for our friends and colleagues in the industry.”

Swiss WorldCargo is also well known for being focused on care-intensive logistic solutions, and we are excelling there. For instance, we have a long established history with the pharma industry, and transporting valuables. Location wise and as a country we have a good image for these services.

Mr. Arafa continued, “The pharma industry is a very important segment for Swiss WorldCargo and we have been successfully servicing this industry for years. Lately, the industry has gone through some significant changes, including an increased need for customized solutions and more complex regulatory framework. This means that we have to change as well and innovation is therefore crucial to us. A number of initiatives were taken in order to remain a partner of choice: on the certification side, our Zurich hub is both GDP compliant and CEIV certified. We have also just initiated a certification process for the whole of Swiss WorldCargo. We are collaborating with partners in order to create ‘pharma quality corridors’. We also improved our service offering by teaming up with va-Q-tec, offering a unique advanced closed passive solution, allowing for an uninterrupted cool chain across our network. This is fully complementing our existing product offer, ranging from active containers to passive temperature sensitive cargo.”

“It’s important to offer our clients a secure and reliable service that can be depended upon. Transporting a temperature sensitive shipment airport to airport is not enough anymore,” says Mr. Arafa. “To ensure cool chain integrity, we need to be with the shipment the whole way. We have to be integrated into the supply chain of the shipper, the forwarder and the ground handling agent to ensure optimal quality. We have a solid culture of quality and a long experience in this business: we are very much part of finding solutions. This is very important and everyone is active in our teams to find solutions. This is where we add value and keep our position in the marketplace.”

SWISS' new flagship Boeing 777-300ER arrives in Bangkok

SWISS’ new flagship Boeing 777-300ER arriving in Bangkok

Making Strides

Swiss WorldCargo recently upped their cargo capacity to the Asia-Pacific region with the introduction of their new Boeing 777-300ER to the market. Mr. Arafa describes it as a big step for Swiss WorldCargo in terms of capacity for the market and positions themselves in a different league. “The new Boeing 777-300ER gives us a 30% increase in capacity and allows us to go after more businesses with our partners and grow with them. It shows a commitment to the region, and allows us to be more flexible. This extra capacity is a challenge for us as well, for the cargo side of the business to step up and fill the extra capacity. I’m proud to say we’re doing very well already and we’re now getting bigger shipments that normally we wouldn’t get before. As a team, we’re all pulling in the same direction and we are able to respond to market needs very quickly. We’re ready to play and step up to the plate.”