AVB chats with DHL Ex­press’ Nour Suli­man on the lat­est com­pany up­dates and plans for 2019

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AVB chats with DHL Ex­press’ Nour Suli­man on the lat­est com­pany up­dates and plans for 2019

AVB: Could you start by shar­ing some de­tails on how DHL Ex­press has ex­panded its net­work over the last year? Any no­table air routes added over 2018?

Nour Suli­man: In 2012 we em­barked on a re­gional ex­pan­sion to in­ten­sify DHL’s reach, lo­gis­tics ca­pac­i­ties and ca­pa­bil­i­ties across key re­gional states in an ef­fort to en­hance tran­sit times, and sup­port the grow­ing lo­gis­ti­cal de­mands of our MENA clients. Since then we have opened eight mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar state-of-theart gate­ways across the MENA, whilst al­most dou­bling DHL’s Avi­a­tion touch points and boost­ing our do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional flights to over 160 per week. Our in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ments were com­ple­mented by cash in­jec­tions to up­grade DHL’s re­gional air net­work, in­crease flight fre­quen­cies and con­nec­tiv­ity. We added more flights into KSA, which makes up a ma­jor part of our busi­ness, and we are now fly­ing wide­body op­er­a­tions to both Riyadh and Jed­dah from our re­gional HUB in Bahrain. DHL Ex­press flies 12 ro­ta­tions per week into Riyadh, one daily flight into Jed­dah, and more re­cently we added a weekly ser­vice into Dam­mam. We also added more flights from Morocco to Paris, UAE to Bahrain which re­main vi­tal links in the lo­gis­tics chain; and new con­nec­tions from Tang­iers to Eu­rope, Al­ge­ria to Mar­seille and Cairo, Am­man, and Beirut to the air­ports served by DHL in the re­gion. We also ex­panded our port­fo­lio to in­clude Asian lanes, and drive in more traf­fic to and from coun­tries like Pak­istan and In­dia.

AVB: What changes have you made to your fleet over the past few years and how will your fleet evolve mov­ing for­ward?

NS: We have been up­grad­ing our fleet at a rapid pace. We have moved away from the legacy Boe­ing 727s, up­grad­ing these air­craft to a uni­form fleet of Boe­ing 767’s oper­at­ing on our Bahrain Air­craft Oper­at­ing Cer­tifi­cate (AOC). These more fuel ef­fi­cient ma­chines al­low us to ac­cess more lo­ca­tions with greater ca­pac­ity, ca­pa­bil­ity and ef­fi­ciency. We have 11 air­craft based in the Gulf re­gion and we con­tinue to plan fur­ther net­work ex­pan­sion and reach over the com­ing years. We are al­ways analysing our net­work and find­ing ways to get into dif­fer­ent mar­kets faster and more ef­fi­ciently.

The de-reg­u­la­tion of fuel prices is a con­stant con­cern; es­pe­cially for a com­pany the size of DHL. It has had an im­pact on our costs, but we have looked at ways to re-en­gi­neer the way we op­er­ate in or­der to get bet­ter ef­fi­ciency. We load air­craft and trucks more ef­fi­ciently, we re­duce the num­ber of loads by im­prov­ing the den­sity and so on. We don’t re­duce the sched­ules though, that’s fun­da­men­tal.

AVB: Are there any no­table air part­ner­ships se­cured with the last year and what im­pact have they had on your busi­ness?

NS: Air Part­ner­ships re­main an im­por­tant part of our busi­ness model. The abil­ity to ac­cess 220 coun­tries across the world on a daily ba­sis, means we have to have strong

part­ner­ships to fa­cil­i­tate that reach re­quire­ment. As with our own op­er­ated net­work, we are con­tin­u­ally look­ing at ways to get into the mar­ket quicker and im­prove the ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers.

AVB: What would you high­light as the cur­rent chal­lenges of the air trans­port mar­ket and do you ex­pect these is­sues to carry over into the new year?

NS: De­mand for freighter air­craft is high un­der cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions. Hav­ing an on­go­ing sup­ply of the right type of avi­a­tion equip­ment is a ‘must have’ for us. With a Global Fleet of our size, we are con­tin­u­ally re­plen­ish­ing, de­vel­op­ing and im­prov­ing, keep­ing up with this de­mand is a chal­lenge and keeps us very busy.

AVB: How has the ad­vent of eCom­merce evolved DHL’s avi­a­tion busi­ness and where has it shifted the fo­cus to­wards?

NS: eCom­merce has been rapidly grow­ing in the re­gion bring­ing with it enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties for the ex­press de­liv­ery in­dus­try. We are see­ing a re­tail boom, and more im­por­tantly the sur­fac­ing of more on­line shop­pers who are at­tracted to in­ter­na­tional emar­ket­places as it be­comes eas­ier and eas­ier to ac­cess these goods. Our role is to give buy­ers that sense of con­fi­dence that they can have the world at their doorstep within 24 hours but also help re­tail­ers stay com­pet­i­tive through cost­ef­fec­tive, in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to reach their B2C mar­ket.

DHL Ex­press is tra­di­tion­ally known for its in­ter­na­tional B2B de­liv­ery, but in re­cent years we have steered our fo­cus to strengthen our eCom­merce foot­ing and grow our mar­ket share in this seg­ment.

We have taken a closer look at our Ex­press Time Def­i­nite ser­vices and in- vested in our air net­works to fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter tran­sit times. The de­mands of the eCom­merce ver­ti­cal have forced us to shift mind­sets and re-align our pro­cesses in or­der to ac­com­mo­date ris­ing cus­tomer and re­tailer de­mands, as well as the abil­ity and flex­i­bil­ity in our Avi­a­tion net­work to adapt to vol­ume spikes and swings.

There are spe­cific times in the year where we see huge vol­ume in­creases in this busi­ness seg­ment, and hav­ing an Avi­a­tion ca­pa­bil­ity to be able to ramp up ac­tiv­ity in these times is of ab­so­lute im­por­tance. This can come in the form of ad­di­tional flights, dou­bling up on ex­ist­ing ro­ta­tions or in­creas­ing our com­mit­ments with our air part­ners.

AVB: Will the up­com­ing DXB run­way clo­sure im­pact your busi­ness? If so, how are you ma­noeu­vring your op­er­a­tions to cope with the tem­po­rary clo­sure?

NS: We are not ex­pect­ing any sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness im­pact, how­ever, we are look­ing at al­ter­na­tive rout­ings and flight pat­terns in ac­count of the sin­gle run­way op­er­a­tion at DXB dur­ing the pe­riod of dis­rup­tion. The plans in place in­clude redi­rect­ing or new time al­lo­ca­tions for our flights and trucks, as well as adding more re­sources on the ground to en­sure zero im­pact on our cus­tomers.

AVB: Is there any­thing you can share about your 2019 net­work ex­pan­sion plans, as well as your strat­egy for the new year?

NS: eCom­merce re­mains a key fo­cus area for us. Keep­ing on top of the shifts in world trade and how we adapt to those chal­lenges is al­ways key. From a net­work per­spec­tive, we see an op­por­tu­nity to in­crease ac­tiv­ity be­tween Asia, the Mid­dle East and Africa, and we hope to add ca­pac­ity to our Mid­dle East to East Africa op­er­a­tions in the com­ing year. We will con­tinue to look at how best to lever­age on our fa­cil­ity in­vest­ments in Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and the UAE, be it by adding more flight fre­quen­cies or by re-de­sign­ing our rout­ings to de­liver greater ca­pa­bil­ity.

Nour Suli­man, CEO of DHL Ex­press MENA.

De­mand for freighter air­craft is high un­der cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions, says Suli­man.

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