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   Vol. 16 No. 81
Tuesday October 10, 2017

October Event Like Silk In Baku
Lisa Wallace

     When the Seventh Caspian Air Cargo Summit got underway October 7-11 inside the Boulevard Hotel in Baku Azerbijan, Silk Way Group President Zaur Akhundov was front and center.
      Mr. Akhundov oversees the fortunes of 23 aviation-related companies, including Silk Way Airlines.
      Silk Way is the Azerbaijani state-run cargo airline with head offices and flight operations at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku.
      Silk Way operates a couple dozen aircraft, including B747-8Fs, Antonov, and Illushin.
      Next year Silk Way will commence induction of the first of ten B737-Max aircraft ordered from Boeing.
      We spoke to Silk Way Airlines USA, Inc. Commercial Director, Americas, Lisa Wallace.
      Lisa revealed some big plans. Driven by a boundless energy, she’s building a legacy of service and pioneering from a powerful and growing air carrier based in Baku.

All Cargo All The Time

      “Silk Way Group currently operates two cargo-only airlines, with both operating as a cohesive unit dedicated to seamless operations for our customers.
      “Silk Way West Airlines, established in 2012, uses only western type aircraft with a fleet consisting of seven Boeing 747 freighters (five B747-8s and two B747-400s). Silk Way Airlines, on the other hand, operates eastern type aircraft such as the IL-76. Silk Way West Airlines provides the extended intercontinental reach and capacity of its B747 fleet, while Silk Way Airlines provides more of a regional reach using smaller aircraft.
      “The combination of the two helps to create a large network with multiple solutions for customers,” Lisa declared.

Adding AZAL

      “When you add Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), the state-owned passenger airline, into the mix, the network and capacity become even larger. 
      “With AZAL recently announcing their fleet expansion through the purchase of four new B-787-8 Dreamliners, and with Silk Way’s efficient utilization of AZAL’s lower deck/belly cargo capacities, we are anticipating an additional boost in the growth of postal mail and freight traffic in the region.

Even More Aircraft

      “In order to meet market demands and provide better connectivity to our customers, we have recently expanded our network and added more capacity with our fifth B747-8F, which was delivered just this past April. 
      “Silk Way significantly increased its global footprint by expanding our network on the main airfreight routes between Asia, Europe, and the U.S. while at the same time expanding regional routes into Central Asia and the Middle East.
      “Additionally, we continue to invest in technology and building/improving our infrastructure.”

Baku Cargo Handling Ups The Ante

      “Over the last few years we have built a state-of-the-art sorting and handling facilities in BCT, or Baku Cargo Terminal, to handle shipments of pharma, perishables, and e-commerce that require special handlings. The facility includes the 12,000-m2 Baku Logistics Center, the 8,000-m2 International Logistics Center, and a 2,000-m2 Postal Terminal; each is equipped with the latest shipment tracking technologies. As such, Baku, more specifically Silk Way, has become a preferred choice for many customers.”

The Business Climate

      “Business for Silk Way in 2017 has grown significantly in both of our scheduled and charter services.
      “In terms of scheduled services, we experienced a double-digit tonnage increase in Q1, and closed Q2 with higher fleet/capacity utilization.
      “We accomplished this by increasing both network and frequencies to and from destinations such as Chicago, Amsterdam, Zhengzhou, and Hong Kong.
      “Additionally, by continuing to focus on improving performance and adding more capacity, we enhanced our position in the European and Asian air cargo markets.
      “The portfolio of customers in the charter segment has also grown considerably.
      “When compared to 2016, the number of charter flight hours flown has also increased by double digits for both the IL-76s and the B-747s.
      “The airline business is just fascinating, with ever-changing market dynamics and innovative technologies to serve customers’ evolving needs.”

An Airline Career So Far

      “It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time, and there is no room for boredom and complacency working in the airline industry.
      “My take is that airlines can certainly benefit from gender diversity in senior management positions.
      “I think the role of women in the airline industry has been constantly improving, especially on the passenger side. On the cargo side, it has been encouraging as well, as we see more women participating in leadership roles.
      “I was an English major at college in China, and came to the U.S. and completed my masters in Computer Information Systems and Marketing.
      “I’m not sure what I would be doing were I not in the airline business. I could be in the hospitality industry or running my own authentic Chinese restaurant serving dumplings!” 

Ahead For Silk Way

      “As an airline, we help facilitate trade growth and trade relations between countries and regions, and I can say that we as a company are doing all that we can to support trade developments.
      “Currently we are offering near-daily connections into Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia out of Baku.
      “The Russia market specifically has been served well by our partner airline, Sky Gates Cargo Airlines, and our close cooperation with them.”

Consignments Abounding

      “The type of goods we are moving hasn’t shifted too much from our traditional main deck cargo, such as odd-sized cargo, Oil & Gas, etc.
      “These industry sectors have contributed a large portion of our tonnage.
      “Having said that, however, we’ve seen significant increases in other types of general and project cargos.
      “We have also experienced phenomenal growth in e-commerce and specialized cargo such as pharmaceuticals and perishables.
      “By being able to offer customers special handling and various cold chain management options, we have really started to see the investments we’ve made in our infrastructure to pay off.”

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend •
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend • Advertising Sales-Judy Miller

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