Following his graduation from Samara State Aerospace University in Russia with a specialty in radio engineering, Sergey Lazarev of AirBridgeCargo Airlines joined Orenburg Airlines in 1994 as a technical control engineer and held various positions within the company up to the first deputy general director.
During this time, he also studied finance and credit at Orenburg State University. In 2013, he joined Volga-Dnepr Group as operations director of AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC), and within two years he was appointed as general director.
He speaks to Airline Cargo Management about a typical day at AirBridgeCargo, the rapidly growing air cargo market, and the most challenging factor affecting the air cargo business today.
What does a typical day in your job entail?
Being general director in one of the leading air cargo carriers – with an extensive international network and multinational offices in different parts of the world – first of all means that I need to be here and there for my team 24/7/365 (and even 366 in leap years) in order to take prompt actions in situations as needed.
I am based at our Moscow HQ and my day starts with a cup of strong coffee! In this way I get ready for another productive day, go through the list of to-do tasks, meetings and company documents.
Overseeing the operational and financial performance of the company involves participation in meetings with my team, analysis of problematic situations, and provision of the most effective solutions in the interests of our customers.
Reports from my colleagues in the regions help me stay tuned and keep track of everything that happens in the company, be it in Chicago, Shanghai, Paris or up in the air. The doors of my office are always open for my colleagues and I am ready to support them by being reachable physically, by phone or via email.
Of course, this is my typical day in Moscow, but my position presupposes business travel and meetings with customers, partners and ABC teams around the world to discuss current and future development plans in order to achieve the strategic goals of the company.
How would you sum up the performance at AirBridgeCargo in 2017?
2017 has been a good year for the industry, with AirBridgeCargo being no exception. It started with two-digit growth rates transforming into a massive peak season in the last three months of the year. We continued solidifying our tonnage growth with more than 700,000 tonnes of cargo carried for the whole of 2017 – 13 per cent up YOY.
There was an upsurge in all major markets of ABC’s footprint. ABC’s load factor inched 4 per cent up YOY, reaching 71 per cent. I attribute this growth to the successful realisation of our fleet expansion strategy, the development of special cargo solutions and the introduction of new destinations.
The combination of these business steps, bolstered by effective work from our high-end specialists made it possible for ABC to continue its momentum.
In which trade lanes are you seeing the most significant growth and why?
Throughout 2017 we have pumped up the volume of the cargo carried, which was facilitated by increasing bi-directional trade flows on the Europe-Asia lane, where exports from Europe to Asia were nearing the level of volumes from Asia to Europe.
The freight corridors, which demonstrated significant growth rates for this period were Southeast Asia-North America, Southeast Asia-Europe, Europe-Japan and Korea, and Europe-the Americas, which saw 52 per cent, 44 per cent, 35 per cent and 36 per cent increases respectively, not only for general cargo, but for special commodities as well.
Some lanes stood out in terms of special cargo transportation demand, specifically the main markets from Europe to North America for automotive spare parts and aerospace equipment from Southeast Asia to North America. Apart from market recovery and economic upturn, a major part of ABC’s growth is down to the refinement of our sales structure.
During the year we continued the development of our centralised sales structure, complemented by regional expertise, instead of relying on a GSA network in the regions of ABC’s footprint and transforming it into a competitive advantage of being available 24/7 and ready to cater for our customers’ needs.
In the rapidly growing air cargo market, most carriers have come to realise the importance of special cargo transportations for customers. With this in mind, ABC has put a lot of effort into the development of special cargoes solutions to guarantee special added services for our customers worldwide.
We have aligned internal regulations within our company with dedicated and qualified staff – sales, customer service, operations, and procurement – to reinforce the handling procedures and control processes required during all stages of transportation.
In 2017, a lot of efforts have been aimed at the reinforcement of our abc PHARMA and abcXL products in order to take ABC services to the next level of quality performance in line with industry standards and customers’ expectations.
The receipt of IATA CEIV Pharma certification in 2016, an adaption of digital technologies with automated notifications to be sent to all supply chain stakeholders via web platform Sky Fresh, networking in industry-related initiatives such as Pharma.
Aero, generating a home-grown pool of logistics experts and orchestration of all internal handling procedures – these are some of the initiatives and factors which bolstered our volumes of temperature-sensitive pharma (+150 per cent YOY) and improved overall performance.
The transportation of offsize and heavy cargo has been our forte for many years, given the unique expertise and experience we ‘inherited’ from Volga- Dnepr specialists and the excellent operational features of our modern Boeing 747 freighter fleet.
ABC, together with Volga-Dnepr Group business units, puts all of its learning into practice for the organisation of project shipments under the Cargo Supermarket service offering delivered by VDG.
Our worldwide team of leading logistics practitioners is well prepared to find the best logistics solution for every cargo delivery using the combined fleet of the Group for the organisation of multi-modal transportations in the interests of our customers. abcXL is particularly appreciated by our customers in Asia with high demand from aerospace, oil and gas, and the heavy machinery industries.
Apart from that, ABC has established a new 24/7/365 Control Tower operation to monitor consignments of special cargoes, and to proactively respond to service disruptions to ensure we consistently meet our customers’ delivery deadlines.
We are aiming to further develop our special cargo offering and will keep abreast of all the latest innovations in each area.
How are your new Boeing 747-8Fs performing?
The Boeing 747 freighter has been the backbone of our company since the first day of its operation when we started with the deployment of Boeing 747-200F. We are overwhelmed by the transformation of our fleet during these 13 years, which has become one of the youngest in the industry (five years – average aircraft age).
Last year we took delivery of two more Boeing 747-8F, which are operated on existing routes to meet our expectations in terms of capacity, the possibility to transport special commodities, turnaround time in major cargo airports of the world, and financial performance.
In your view, what is the single most challenging factor affecting the air cargo business today?
Apart from economic, geopolitical, financial and other factors influencing the air cargo industry, the biggest hurdle nowadays is the slowness with which IT solutions and digitalisation processes are coming into life.
There are still so many things to be done in this field and customers – among half of whom are tech-savvy ‘netizens’ – are expecting a high level of digital penetration into the air cargo sector.
We do believe that steps should be taken in a more proactive way, industry-wise. From our side, we have been developing IT technologies, providing our customers with e-tools for booking, track and trace (not only of the shipment’s status but also its condition, i.e. temperature, etc.) and mobile applications for special cargo monitoring.
Visit airbridgecargo.com/en for more information.