Liesbeth Oudkerk. Photo: Qatar Airways Cargo
Qatar Cargo is responding to weaker market conditions by being increasingly agile with its freighter operations.
Speaking to Air Cargo News at the recent Air Cargo Europe event, Qatar Cargo senior vice president cargo sales and network planning Liesbeth Oudkerk said that demand varied by region.
However, overall cargo demand at Qatar Cargo reflected the wider market.
“We knew there were some corrections to be made after Covid,” she said. “We are in the midst of it.”
“We just have to deal with it and remember that it is still better than before Covid.”
Oudkerk said that Qatar was responding to the current market by being agile with its flights to “see if we can jump in with where there is better demand”.
She gave the example of the carrier responding to lower demand in the US by adding stops in South America.
The airline also added flights to Riyadh and Dammam to create new sales opportunities.
Asked how quickly Qatar Cargo could add a new freighter stop, Oudkerk outlined some of the challenges.
“You have to have your permissions to do it,” she said. “And you have to have your crew to be able to fly, so there are a lot of checks and balances.
“But I find Qatar Airways to be extremely flexible and agile to be able to make that work – the team is really focussed on making it work and that is not the same for all airlines, especially if you are more passenger oriented you have fixed schedules.”
Airport opening hours, crew availability and handling partnerships were other considerations.
The carrier also recently added a new hub in Kigali, Rwanda, in partnership with RwandAir.
This is the carrier’s first cargo hub outside Qatar and will be serviced by a Boeing 777 freighter from Doha twice a week.
The airline is also offering an intra-Africa service between Kigali and Lagos three times per week, and a weekly service from Istanbul via Doha to Kigali, all operated by an Airbus A310 aircraft.
The new hub and intra-Africa flights open up new destinations in Africa that are too small for a big freighter, she said.
The airline is also considering adding more flights in Africa in the future.
Oudkerk said that Kigali was selected as Rwanda is one of the most “progressive countries in Africa”.
Looking ahead the carrier recently placed a large order for new freighters – last year Qatar Airways ordered 34 new generation 777-8F freighters with options for a further 16.
The aircraft are due to start being delivered in 2027 and the carrier is updating the infrastructure at its home hub of Doha to match.
The carrier will open a new cargo terminal that will increase the gateway’s freight handling capacity to an estimated 3.2m tons a year.
It will be a multi-level facility with an 85,000 sq m land footprint; taking in the three levels as well as three mezzanine levels, it will offer a total of approximately 323,000 square metres of gross floor area.
Qatar Airways Cargo launches first cargo hub outside of Qatar
HIA reveals plans for further development
Boeing launches new freighter with Qatar Airways order