New digital plans as peak preparations begin

Andress Lam, Head of Cargo Digital

Here we are at the halfway point of the year. It has been a busy one so far, and that looks set to continue. In terms of the business, we expect demand to remain robust as it has been throughout the first five months of 2024. Market sentiment, particularly out of Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland, remains positive and we will continue to adjust our freighter capacity to suit the needs of our customers. There is ongoing confidence in air-cargo demand, especially if congestion in ocean freight remains or worsens as we head towards the year-end peak.

Hong Kong remains busy and our freighter load factor remains high particularly on the main trade lanes. Our teams are hearing from our forwarders, many of whom we recognised at our Top Customer Awards Dinner in Hong Kong last month, that there is advanced inventory planning going on, with earlier preparation for the peak for key markets. We will continue to keep working with our freight forwarders to provide the capacity needs for their shippers as far as is practicable, and to make sure we offer the highest level of services we can, including a stable schedule and network.

We were delighted to welcome back Barcelona earlier last month and announce Riyadh passenger flights from October onwards. Saudi Arabia is another strong consumer market, and an important country on the ‘Belt and Road’ network. We operate charter flights to RUH, but adding regular belly capacity with three flights a week is a welcome addition for us and the market.

On top of network and schedule, there has been a strong focus on the service and solutions we offer, and our future of more sustainable operations. I’m delighted to report that our concerted efforts to decarbonise air cargo were recognised at the AFLAS Awards in Shanghai last month. We were named Best Green Air Cargo Carrier, reflecting our commitment to sustainable operations.

On the solutions side, we also relaunched our Cathay Expert solution, which is for out-of-gauge shipments or those that require extra care in handling. It’s hard to categorise, but imagine a range of shipments from artworks to massive equipment for the oil industry or aircraft engines. These are shipments that demand advance planning, care in handling and careful supervision throughout.

In my new role as Head of Cargo Digital, I’m also delighted to say that there is a digital element to Cathay Expert – by unifying some back-office systems, we can reduce the approval time for these bespoke shipments. Our outport teams can now enter size and weight digitally and get a decision back from the Cargo Operation Centre in Hong Kong within five hours – halving the confirmation time –  for floating positions and in just one hour for standard positions.

It’s a great example of Cathay Cargo’s digitalisation programme in action, producing these benefits to customers. Our digital programmes, like this shipment care example, work in an Agile way, which means developing, releasing and improving developments incrementally rather than waiting for the ultimate finished release. As we know from operating systems on our mobile phones, for example, there is no such thing as a complete release, but a series of upgrades that continuously improve the experience.

By not deferring releases, it means that we can offer parts of an overall solution that provide our customers with the most value more quickly.  As you can read below, our focus this year will be on engineering back-end systems to make the front-end of our Cathay Cargo website more of a one-stop shop cargo services hub, with improved track and trace, and the ability to manage bookings. And with confidence growing in a busy year-end, that could prove to be very helpful.