WFS sees joint ventures with airlines as the way forward in the Chinese market, and says it has had interest fromsome carriers in the idea.
The handler prefers to work with airlines rather than airport authorities in joint ventures in China so as not to compete with its carrier customers, pointing out that it is already a major handler of Chinese carriers in Europeand the US.
The idea, explains Barry Nassberg, Hong Kong-based executive vice president and chief operating offi cer of WFS, would be to help Chinese carriers win third party handling business, particularly at the second and third tier airportsnow opening to international traffi c.
“They may set up a handling operation at an airport and be perfectly able to handle themselves, but with our global network and international contacts, we would be able to bring in business from other carriers,” he says.
Olivier Bijaoui, CEO of WFS, says it is happy to transfer skills and expertise to any Chinese partners, pointing out that it has already done this with LOT Ground Services in Poland. “We basically had a three year contract in which we trained them and transfered knowledge,” he says. “Deals like this strengthen our relationships with airlines, and in the longterm that is good for our business.”
WFS is also looking at handling opportunities in India, in cooperation with a number of different partners. Though it lost out on the Bangalore and Hyderabad cargo handling contracts to Menzies, it is hopeful of winning other licences as they arise during India’s airportmodernisation.
For example, Nassberg thinks it likely WFS will bid for handling contracts at Delhi, though he stresses any fi nal decision will depend on the terms of any licences offered. The handler is also involved in a bid with a partner for the sole cargo handling contract at Dhaka in Bangladesh. “It is a project that has been going on for some years, but I am optimistic it will happen relativelysoon,” he says.
Elsewhere, Nassberg says WFS is”watching closely” plans for a thirdcargo terminal in Hong Kong. “We arecertainly interested on the operatingside, though we would need to be partof a consortium as it would be a massiveinvestment beyond the scope of anyhandler,” he says.
However, a key focus for the company is its cargo handling joint venture with Bangkok Airlines at the new Suvarnabhumi airport, which opened last year. Nassberg says the initial teething problems at the airport were not major ones for an airport opening of its size, and insists that the handling business is now performing well, albeit that volumes are slightly below target due to the slowdownin Thai exports.
“But is a major project and we are giving it a lot of attention to get it where we want to be,” he says. “We would rather devote resources to that than in pursuing dreams elsewhere.”
The Bangkok operation has 21 airline customers, including Emirates, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, Qantas, Air Hong Kong, Shanghai Airlines Cargo, Etihad, Fedex and Northwest Airlines.
Stewart Sinclair, manager of the operation, says it is achieving two hour processing times for imported bellyhold cargo, and four hours for freighter aircraft, with a 99 percent fl own as booked record for export cargo. Total volumes are running at 200,000 tonnes per annum.
He insists teething problems at the airport were restricted mainly to IT communications with Customs. “Our business has not been affected by this,” he says. – Peter Conway