The aviator

As the exclusive provider of aviation related services to DHL Express, DHL Aviation plays the extensive role of meeting rising express needs. Allan Baird, airline director at DHL Aviation, provides an insight into the division's regional and global operations.

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As the exclusive provider of aviation related services to DHL Express, DHL Aviation plays the extensive role of meeting rising express needs. Allan Baird, airline director at DHL Aviation, provides an insight into the division's regional and global operations.

DHL Aviation plays the essential role of providing technical support to the global giant's vast express network. Focused acutely on the aviation sector, the subsidiary offers DHL the required expertise needed to compliment the logistical side of the business.

In the Middle East, DHL Aviation is headquartered in Bahrain within close proximity to the main DHL Express hub. Last year, the regional base underwent a restructuring programme, expanding to encompass wider regions outside the Middle East.

 

DHL Aviation provides DHL Express with optimal air express transport - optimal in the sense of service quality and cost efficiency.

"Prior to the centralisation, DHL Aviation EEMEA was run in three separate areas - East Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Now all three areas have come under the same divisions of finance, operations, commercial and senior area director," says Allan Baird, airline director, DHL Aviation.

Due to the various stages of development and evolution of the individual areas within EEMEA, in the past they have been structured under separate clusters responsible for the day to day management.

We have now reached a point in our evolution where it would be more effective to have EEMEA Aviation run by one expanded senior management team.

Within the combined department, which was incepted in July 2007, the Middle East region constitutes the largest part of the operation. The DHL Aviation fleet in Bahrain currently devotes four DC8s, eight Boeing 1900s, one Ilyushin 76 and one Metro to Middle Eastern operations.

An evolving part of the company, the aviation specialist is looking into acquiring two additional Boeing 727s.

"We are constantly changing equipment as we grow. For instance, in Africa we have plans to upgrade aircraft in the area we call South and Central in order to increase capacity and reliability. In Eastern Europe, we had to increase our number of aircrafts with enhanced landing capabilities to be better equipped to cope with bad weather conditions," says Baird.

In name DHL Aviation remains a separate entity from its sister company, but in reality its tight knit working relationship with DHL Express means the two must at all times collaborate seamlessly together.

While DHL Express staff collate and handle the vast volumes of parcels and other such express items arriving and departing from the automated hub in Bahrain, DHL Aviation staff comprise of the engineers and technicians that busily prepare the aircraft for take off and arrival. In total the aviation department employs 150 members of staff, 50 of which are pilots.

"To generalise, our commercial and operational departments are not that different from others within the DHL Group. It is on the airline side that we are most distinguishable and employ staff with very specific skills, such as the pilots and technicians," summarises Baird.

Over the years, it has established a close bond with the Bahrain Civil Aviation Authority and the company now feels it has developed a mutual respect for one another's operations. From Bahrain International Airport, DHL Aviation leases two hangars, while it also holds a flight dispatch and flight operators area within the surrounding vicinity.

The airline is also confident that the growing stature of Bahrain as a transport hub will provides a valuable backbone to future expansion. "Bahrain complements DHL Aviation in a number of ways. Firstly, from an airline's perspective we have a very healthy relationship with the governing aviation authorities," exemplifies Baird.
 

In the Middle East, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to attract skilled professionals. However, we have always found Bahrain to be a good location for attracting and retaining staff.

It is relatively small compared to other cities in the region but it offers all the necessities and has great connections for international travel," he adds.

Offering dedicated freighter services to Dubai, Riyadh, Jeddah and Doha, chartered operations also extend to the entire Middle East region. On the Eastern European front, flights arrive from Moscow, Istanbul and Casablanca, which are all connected to the extended central European network. Meanwhile, Africa is served with a daily MD11 flights from Brussels to Lagos.

 

It is on the airline side that we are most distinguishable and employ staff with very specific skills.

"Each of the three areas in the DHL Aviation EEMEA have their own specifics. However, the Middle East is accountable for the highest number of airframes," notes Baird.

While primary focus remains on accommodating DHL Express, the commercial sales team also keeps a sharp eye on selling remaining capacity to third parties. Customers range from interline partners to freight forwarders but the airline also serves other inhouse companies that fall under the goliath Deutche Post World Net umbrella, such as DHL Global Forwarding.

"DHL Aviation provides DHL Express with optimal air express transport, optimal in the sense of service quality and cost efficiency. To support our cost efficiency, we sell our excess capacity to our sister companies within DPWN and the general airfreight market," explains Baird.

"DHL is self handling with owned equipment and similar aircraft frames, we achieve early build up and have an integrated weight balance control centre," he adds.

The much publicised joint venture with Lufthansa, that only last month was revealed under the brand ‘Aerologic', is a strong declaration of DHL's overall bid to further strengthen airfreight operations.

"Among other points, DHL Express intends to strengthen its European "fortress" and its market dominance on the Euro-Asian trade lane. This means that we want to improve our next-day/AM service capability.

The existing production model, based on commercial air uplift and the old Lufthansa joint venture operations, doesn't allow us to realise this objective," Baird clarifies.

"Hence, we have developed a new joint venture model with our long-time partner Lufthansa, which involves a stand-alone airline providing more dedicated air capacity, optimal asset utilisation and the required service improvement.

This new joint venture also underlines DHL Aviation's strategy to collaborate with a few selected strategic partners, especially when it comes to intercontinental traffic. It allows us to share cost and risk while
at the same time maintaining control over our operations.

With solid foundations in Bahrain matched with a rapidly developing global network, DHL Aviation is making huge strides towards achieving its ultimate goal of becoming an integrated global airline.

"We have complemented our strong regional air production platforms with a strong intercontinental platform. This will materialise fully during the years 2008 through 2010," reveals Baird.

"In parallel we are embarking on another journey of harmonisation and centralisation that will heave us to our next evolutionary level - one virtual global airline," he concludes.

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