QR Cargo: plenty of ideas in the pipeline

From designs for a huge, additional cargo warehouse, to two WeQare chapters lined up for this year, to views on Net Zero, the Boeing freighters to come, and Qatar Airways Cargo’s Next Generation strategy, Mark Drusch, Chief Officer Cargo, provided input on the airline’s achievements and plans in a one-to-one CargoForwarder Global interview in Doha, last week.

Despite my being the fourth journalist in a back-to-back line-up that morning, Mark Drusch still exuded the same dynamic energy he had shown when introducing the Animal Center the previous day. After congratulating him on the new Animal Center (as well as taking up his offer of providing a suggestion for improvement and delivering an idea that will now be analyzed and perhaps communicated through CargoForwarder Global at a later stage – let’s see!), my first question was centered around the ‘Bigger Plan’, he had hinted at, the previous day.

Enjoying cargo to the full. Image: Qatar Airways Cargo

Part of a bigger plan

The decommissioning of the old Animal Center is ‘part of a bigger plan’. While local inbound and outbound operations may be under consideration for the old facility, Qatar Airways Cargo and the airport are working on Phase B of the airport’s expansion. Mark Drusch confirms: “We are right now evaluating building a brand new, additional cargo center that could significantly increase our footprint,” he says. Currently around 9 different options are being analyzed that will allow for significant cargo growth. “Up to three times the size of the existing facility?” I ask. He laughs, stressing the significant growth, but that thrice the size is not the aim, though “Let me be clear: we have the opportunity to go to 3X if we need to, if we felt there is a business case or a partnership that supported that.” During our half-hour chat, the emphasis is often on finding the right business partners and creating financially sound business cases, accompanied by his clear willingness to consider new concepts and innovations.

And much of that is present in the Bigger Plan: The go-live date of the new warehouse is dependent on its size and the models eventually agreed upon. “And what we’re looking at is not just warehouse space,” he tells me. “It’s adding brand new technologies to operate the warehouse more effectively, as well as some good and exciting things for our employees to make their lives more enjoyable when they are at work. Until you’ve gone through a warehouse, you don’t appreciate what hard work that is,” he explains, describing that aside from the actual physical work involved, there are also the emotional stress aspects of having to work to a tight schedule, to stringent safety standards, and the responsibility that comes with handling air cargo. “It’s not easy stuff,” and that is why the emphasis is on providing an environment where employees know “I’m getting the best work environment possible because people respect the work I do.”

What’s next with the Next Generation?

I refer to an interview that Air Cargo News’ Rebecca Jeffrey conducted with Mark Drusch right at the start of the year, 16 days into his new role, where he stated that “what Guillaume and the team have built, has given me this fantastic platform to take it to the next level,” and ask what the next level in the airline’s Next Generation strategy is now. “We are actually refreshing the strategy,” he says, stating that a meeting had been held the previous week with the VP of transformation, and detailing the components that are being integrated internally before the next phase of the strategy in three to four months: “In particular, it is Leading, Digitization, our Commitment to our WeQare program, the Commitment to our own People, as well as the Partnerships, I mentioned before.

And he emphasizes again: “I am now even more convinced of what I said at the start of the year: It’s a great foundation that I have inherited. I am very, very fortunate that I inherited an organization that runs so efficiently already, incredibly safely – a group of people who are very dedicated to what we do and to getting even better. It’s a gift to start from such a great platform,” he enthuses.

WeQare and Net Zero

I pick up on WeQare, and ask when we will see a Chapter 5? “It’s already in the works and will be announced in the next few weeks,” he laughs, and reveals that a Chapter 6, too, will be launched before the end of the year. While he hints at the intensity he expects with the next two chapters, he does not disclose details. Instead, we digress into the importance of air cargo and how it still remains largely unrecognized in the shadow of much more publicly present passenger operations within the aviation world. “I want to raise the consciousness, globally, of how critical we are to the global economy and our lifestyles, and improving our lifestyles,” he urges, mentioning a number of tangible examples, and stressing the need to “lead and elevate the industry so that everyone realizes this is something important to invest in.”

How realistic is Net Zero 2050 for Qatar Airways Cargo?” I ask. He states that while 2050 is still a long way off, he is a very optimistic person and that “I am confident that the industry is taking it seriously. I believe we will get there because the drive is there, and the commitment is real. The problems are big, but everybody now is putting their energy into solving those problems.

99% of all Qatar Airways’ ground vehicles in Doha are electric, the company is recycling as much as possible, and has a ‘game-changing’ idea in the pipeline that he hints will be revealed soon. “When you start discussing with people who want to change things for the better, you get inspired and find solutions,” he says, concluding: “If you have the desire to do it, we generally are able to achieve it.

Boeing freighter fleet still on the books?

With Boeing having been in the news so much recently, regarding quality and product issues, I ask if Qatar Airways Cargo has any thoughts of changing their order for 34 Boeing 777-8 freighters (and an option for a further 16)? Mark Drusch is very clear in his answer: “No. We are absolutely committed to the Boeing 777-8 fleet.” As the launch customer, he tells me that he is in daily contact with Boeing and that both companies are working very closely together on what that aircraft will look like, particularly regarding the onboard digitization. Again, emphasizing his company’s 100% commitment to the Boeing freighter, he does also add that, as a businessperson, one will always talk to all manufacturers to understand and discuss the products on offer, as the aim is to select the best product for the customer – and those discussions ultimately lead to a better product.

“I’m lovin’ it!” Mark Drusch’s enthusiasm for cargo is endless and he himself says that, had I asked him if he was enjoying his new role, the answer would have been “I’m loving it! Cargo is so exciting!” I ask him what he sees are the differences to the passenger side? It is much more complex than passenger, he says, pointing out that it is therefore even more important to have better business intelligence to understand where markets are moving. It is so much more dynamic, and agility is important: agility is a core trait of Qatar Airways Cargo, he adds, again stressing his fortune in having inherited a team of extraordinarily motivated and committed people. “I am excited about achieving all aspects of our business. We have new energy, everyone is on board,” he says, pointing out the airline’s growth and achievements over the past 10 years, and particularly its performance during the pandemic. “We have done things that nobody else did. Our people always rise to the challenge to exceed, deliver, and to lead. It’s in our DNA!



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