When it comes to moving complicated or sensitive freight by air, Cathay Cargo has the answers. Whether it's live cattle heading to Dhaka in Bangladesh, fresh cherries harvested at the height of New Zealand's soft fruit season or medicine manufactured in the USA that needs end-to-end cold storage, Cathay Cargo has both the expertise and the solutions to cater to all demands. Here, we find out how the business has responded to changing customer demand and take a look at its recent rebranding campaign.
Cathay Pacific Airways began life in 1946 with two propellor-driven Douglas DC-3 aircraft, "Betsy" and "Niki", that each carried just 15 tonnes of cargo per flight. A lot has changed over the nearly eight decades since. In 2022, Cathay Cargo carried 1.15 million tonnes of cargo in its dedicated fleet of 20 Boeing 747 freighters and in the bellies of the Cathay Group's 180-strong fleet of passenger aircraft.
During the recent pandemic, Cathay Cargo provided a vital service delivering vaccines and personal protective equipment around the world. It also bolstered the Cathay Group's overall business performance at a time when most people couldn't or wouldn't fly. Today, Cathay Cargo is globally renowned for its efficiency, expertise and reliability. It carries a wide variety of freight, ranging from thousands of tonnes of live lobsters to Formula 1 racing cars. But as that implies, this is a business that doesn't stand still, and Cathay Cargo is poised to make an even greater impact on the industry through innovation and exciting new solutions.
In fact, most of the world's freight is shipped by rail or sea – usually because of cost considerations. According to the International Air Transport Association ("IATA"), today's global air cargo industry represents less than 1% of global trade by volume. However, it represents 35% of its value: some US$6 trillion worth of goods. Customers see air freight as quicker, safer and more reliable for their high-value shipments.
"We move cargo that matters to the world," explains Tom Owen, Cathay's Director Cargo. "Everything that is transported by air is somehow vital to someone's life, somewhere. Whether it's a component for a construction project, a racehorse on its way to compete in Hong Kong, life-saving pharmaceuticals or fresh produce going to the supermarkets, air cargo matters."
What makes Cathay Cargo different is its expertise in moving challenging items – just one example being a helicopter shipped from Milan in Italy to Perth in Western Australia, to be deployed in the government's medical and emergency services. Helicopters are made up of fragile, complex, irregularly shaped and extremely expensive components that require special care when being shipped. Such was the intricacy of the operation that the team combined Cathay Expert, a customised freight service for unusual cargo, with Cathay Priority, a solution that provides optimal delivery speed, capacity and assurance. All partners involved – from the ground handling agents and the trucking company to the airport and regulatory bodies – worked in sync to ensure it was a success. The ability to deal with complexity means Cathay Cargo can achieve a higher yield by focusing on cargo that is difficult to ship. By doing so, the business aims to generate over a third of its revenue from specialist solutions, enabling it to stand out further from its industry competitors.
Another advantage for Cathay Cargo is that it is based in Hong Kong, which has been the world's busiest international air cargo hub since 1996. The city is blessed by its geographical location, which places it within five hours' flying time of half the world's population. Hong Kong enjoys an open economy, an easy-to-manage customs regime, and its airport's huge network of international destinations and flight frequencies. With this scale and capacity, Cathay Cargo is able to ship air cargo to most parts of the world quickly and efficiently.
Investing in solutions
In recent years, Cathay Cargo has devoted a lot of time, effort and money to upgrading its offerings to customers, focusing on digitalisation of its services, as well as unveiling new innovations that create more value for shippers.
Examples include Cathay Pharma, which offers cold chain solutions to pharmaceutical manufacturers worldwide via Cathay Cargo's 100% owned Cathay Cargo Terminal and its revamped Pharma Handling Centre at Hong Kong International Airport ("HKIA"). Customers say how much they appreciate the availability of online tracking with temperature visibility and status updates, as well as excellent customer service at both origin and destination. The relaunched Cathay Mail service, meanwhile, enables post offices worldwide to track and trace their mail while also providing them with a simplified billing and reconciliation system.
Click & Ship is another game-changing solution. A few years ago, arranging a shipment involved piles of paperwork, and bookings were made over the phone. The new online booking system puts complete control in the hands of the customer, so that the process is just as simple as an airline passenger booking their seat online.