Vol. 8 No. 77 WE COVER THE WORLD Wednesday July 22, 2009
Dateline, New Delhi—Air India’s financial problems continue to hog headlines. The Chairman and Managing Director, Arvind Jadhav, has gone on record to say that he was looking at various options to save money.
In an impassioned letter, the CMD sent out to Air Indians, he asked them to rise to the challenge and make Air India fly again. He reminded the employees that they had not felt the impact of problems confronting the aviation industry – thus far -- because they had been receiving their wages/salary every month even when people in the industry in the country and abroad had lost jobs or seen their emoluments take a dip.
“The time has come for us to face the moment of truth in Air India…This is an hour of crisis for all of us. It is a fight for survival. The survival of our own airline. I am looking for every single employee of our airline to rise to the challenge and demonstrate that we not only have more experience in running an airline as compared to others but also have the ability to overcome the crisis and emerge with flying colors. The experience and commitment to the company will be of no gain, if we cannot demonstrate this. We have to show our critics that all of us can make Air India fly high again!” wrote the CMD. One can only hope that the CMD succeeds in turning Air India around.
These problems, however, have not deterred the cargo division to go ahead with its ambitious plans. The blueprint for cargo development publicized around a year ago by Anita Khurana, Director Commercial & Special Business Unit Head Cargo, National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL – the entity formed after Indian’s merger with Air India), that had been put on the backburner after the fuel price hike, have received a shot in the arm.
ACNFT had reported Khurana’s announcement at that time that the losses incurred by Air India from diminishing passenger traffic would be offset by cargo. The card that was up her sleeve was the launch of the carrier’s domestic cargo service with a hub at Nagpur. But the Nagpur hub plan had to be put on ice and Air India had to curtail its cargo operations: the A310 freighter service from Bengaluru to Paris had to be withdrawn “because that was not making enough money,” as Khurana put it.
Today, the Cargo head is back to her exuberant self. Her plans to take Air India cargo into the next decade are under implementation, and if everything goes according to schedule, could we witness a renaissance of sorts?
The prime mover in the erstwhile Indian’s (Airlines) cargo automation, Khurana had hoped that the Indian-Air India merger would not only boost international cargo operations but also that the automation bit would put AI at par with the best in the world.
Talking to ACNFT, she said: “In today’s fiercely competitive cargo industry, there is constant and increasing pressure on airlines to provide high quality service, coupled with best tracking information that should be available at the click of a mouse. In an effort to provide the best service to the customers, airlines have started using technological solutions for cargo, which gives them utmost control of the sales and operations.”
Khurana knows what she wants for the national carrier: “I wanted the latest state-of-the-art technology that would be as friendly to the agent as it is to the customer.” Prior to the merger, Indian (Airlines) was using a new generation integrated cargo solution for its cargo operations, CSP, which is web-enabled and uses open technology. On the other hand, Air India was using – and continues to use – the rather outdated USAS cargo, a mainframe-based solution for cargo. Now, Anita Khurana wants to synergize the operations of the two carriers and provide identical services to the customers.
“What I am trying to do is bring both the carriers to a common platform, which is the reservation platform. Air India’s USAS system is very old and an outdated one, while the CSP from Kale Consultants for Indian is user-friendly and up-to-date.” Work, she pointed out, was on in Air India. “It will take another six months for phase-wise implementation, and by April 1, 2010 both Air India and IC (Indian Airlines) will be on the CSP system. We could begin from January 1 next year…by then we should have a number of stations done,” she said.
A year from today, cargo agents using Air India will not have to make harrowing trips to the airports to book their shipments. Instead, all they have to do is enter the details on their computer from their place of work and get everything done on the Net.
The system, once it comes into force, will enable the cargo agents to have details of their shippers and consignees pre-recorded in the system. “Our system will allow track and trace using the house airway bill number. This is one facility that others do not have,” emphasized Khurana, “and it is going to be a major achievement for us.”
Other than the automation, the Cargo chief has moved on to create new sources of revenue for the flailing carrier. And, in this depressed market, she has got results. “Inspite of the recession, AI cargo has seen an increase. Yields and revenues have increased.” A large percentage of the revenues have come from mangoes and perishables. “For the first time, we have started promoting mangoes on our non-stop flights from Mumbai to New York.”
For the moment, however, AI’s cargo head is content with the progress she has made. “We have done very well in the current season: the carriage figure for mango for the current season–both domestic and international—by AI is 2,500 tons.”
Next year, she plans to venture to uncharted territory – at least as far as Air India and perishables are concerned. “I might even go to Tokyo,” she said. “If we have to promote the carriage of perishables it would be at a low rate. We do not have a freighter operating to New York, but now that our Frankfurt hub has come up, we could use the line flights to promote exports. The freighters could then focus on the express markets,” she said.
The downturn has not affected the cargo division. “Our revenues have been pretty good. The February figures showed practically an 8 percent increase from last year. As for mail, we have done very well over last year.” Air India, incidentally, had not been carrying mail at all but with Britain’s Royal Mail is using the national carrier and Khurana said, “we are happy with the progress we have made in mail carriage.”
may not be fair that women as compared to most men in air cargo have
to be extraordinary to rise to the top.
Air Cargo News/FlyingTypers Original
exclusive series “Women
In Air Cargo” asks our readers to send some words and a picture
about somebody that you know who is female and has made a difference
in air cargo.
Seven months after China took its first
home-made regional jet, ARJ21-700 to sky, the second one launched a
maiden flight successfully (July 1st) in Shanghai, marking another step
towards the country's dream of flying its own large jet.
Cargo News FlyingTypers leads the way again as the world’s first
air cargo publication to connect the industry to the broadly expanding
and interactive base for social commentary—Twitter.
July 21: Philippine Airlines lost $301 million in year ended March 31, blames fuel, says new B777s coming this year will help realize profits.
21: Decline Gets Better .
. . China Airlines Cargo load factor down 10% this month sees
sunlight rising after recording minus 25% month earlier.
July 21: Boeing
finishes connecting first 747-8 F joining forward and aft fuselage with
wing & center. At 250Ft the 8 is 18 feet bigger than 400F.