With years of experience in air cargo and dedicated assets spanning the air cargo supply chain under its belt, Challenge Group is out to make a bold statement and rightfully so. Headed by CEO Yossi Shoukroun, the group is looking to contribute proactively and tangibly to the future of the industry as a member of TIACA.
Challenge Group has more than four decades of cargo airline experience and almost 25 years in cargo handling. Operating out of Liege airport, it also provides extensive road feeder services and other aviation expertise, including aircraft and parts leasing and line maintenance.
The group’s fleet includes B747-400Fs, with four 767-300BDSF and four 777-300ERSF converted freighters expected over the next two years. With 65 percent of its business dealing with non-standard cargo, Challenge has its fair share of dedicated solutions, including a 52-tonne high-loader at Liege for outsized freight. It also manages the Horse Inn hotel where more than 250 horses transited on their way to the Tokyo Olympics last year.
Payload Asia talks to CEO Yossi Shoukroun to find out more about Challenge Group’s recent rebranding, the company’s plans, as well as the current nuisances of handling and flying all kinds of commodities in a disrupted market.
Can you share with us the story behind Challenge Group’s rebranding? Tell us about certain aviation assets that you own.
To offer our customers tailor-made end-to-end solutions, from handling to air and ground logistics, aviation services and a wide range of ancillary services, it was decided to create a dedicated management team to better overlook, harmonize and coordinate all the activities performed by different entities: this is how Challenge Group started. Currently under the Challenge Group umbrella you can find 3 airlines (CAL Cargo Airlines in Israel, Challenge Airlines in Belgium, and Challenge Air Cargo in Malta), a ground handling company (Challenge Handling in Liege, Belgium), a European road feeder provider (Challenge Logistics in Liege, Belgium), an aircraft and parts leasing division (Challenge Aviation), and a comprehensive line maintenance provider (Challenge Technic).
What’s the market situation like for big widebody freighters given what happened in Ukraine?
Obviously, any extreme situation forces an organization to review its strategy when dealing with a disruption: a sudden gap in overall airfreight capacity, mainly focused on specific trade lanes, likewise high demand for urgent and special commodities to supply specific markets.
Have you been able to secure capacity for outsized cargo shipments?
Our core business is based on verticals and special products, therefore we have been able to secure new business to support the industry and mitigate some of the capacity shortage resulting from the current geopolitical situation.
How did the company perform over the last 2 years? What’s the outlook for air cargo?
We have experienced two exceptional years in terms of overall performance, fleet utilization, destinations reached, customers served and tonnage transported.
When it comes to the future of air cargo, we deeply believe that the airfreight business will continue to play a key role in supporting world trade, and the more extreme the situation becomes, the more the world economy understands its value. Air cargo is here to stay and can be trusted.
What would be the advantages of being part of wider industry groups like TIACA?
We are driven by one principle on which we have based our vision: the shared economy in a collaborative environment. We therefore expect TIACA, as a main industry organization, to be the key catalyst in connecting stakeholders to build a sustainable business environment.
How would you describe your network strategy? What are the short and long-term plans?
At Challenge Group, we have a clear growth plan and roadmap that calls for a tripling of our fleet over the next 4 to 5 years.
In the short term, we will continue to strengthen our presence in the US, Middle East and Far East markets. But when it comes to the long term, we are willing to export our success story of a centralized European hub and strategic partnerships to complement our network on other continents as well, starting with North America.
Was there any challenge that you had to decline?
Unfortunately, we have had to decline some requests due to the current geopolitical situation and related restrictions, but don’t forget that our motto is “challenge accepted” and therefore, our attitude is to never give up and never say no!
Which factors do you think will add pressure to freight and logistics in the current environment?
The key concept here is the ability of our community to understand the breadth of change in world trade and the capability to quickly adapt the business model to sudden changes and uncertain future.
What are the challenges for forwarders and logistics players?
For us, the real challenge for the logistics industry is to adopt a multimodal approach to the supply chain and be able to develop alternative solutions from origin to destination based on a variety of different services.