Focus Hong Kong.
Chinese culture, western influences and a generous portion of autonomy – all that belongs in the Hong Kong profile. The metropolis in the Pearl River Delta is officially part of the Chinese People’s Republic but jealously guards its status as a Special Administration Region. Located in Hong Kong, around 1,000 square kilometres in size, is the home of one of the most important stations maintained by Lufthansa Cargo. “Approaching Hong Kong“ has become a familiar sound on 20 flights weekly.
The Lufthansa Cargo station in Hong Kong is run by a staff of 24. 16 of the staff work in sales, the other eight on handling activities. The airport moves about 60,000 tonnes of freight yearly for Lufthansa Cargo and has earned its the label as a “High Frequency Station”. That China ranks ahead of Germany as export world champion is evident immediately on all sides. All the major forwarders have branches at Hong Kong International Airport. Freight carried by Lufthansa Cargo consists principally of textiles. But the aircraft holds of Lufthansa Cargo are well filled, too, by electronic exports like flat screens or electrical appliances. “The exports out of the Pearl River Delta in southern China are still growing despite the Go-west policy implemented by the Chinese government already years ago. The rather low demand for imports into the region remains our constant challenge,“ says Konstantin Stathopoulos, Director South China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, pointing to the imbalance in trade flows.
Rare indeed is the time to chill out and enjoy a job well done. Scarcely has one aircraft been off-loaded then the next is waiting for the hold to be filled. Work pressures are high when handling 20 connections, weekly. Hong Kong is currently served by four MD-11 freighters weekly and two B777F’s operated by Aerologic. Furthermore, two passenger flights daily, to Frankfurt and Munich have to be filled. With all that, the team’s morale is remarkable:
“Hong Kong is such a vibrant and dynamic city, you hardly have time to sit back and relax – but what can be better than working at one of the biggest aviation hubs in the world“ says John Mampilli, who has headed the Hong Kong airport team for the past twelve years. “Our colleagues have such a high degree of expertise and experience that not much can still surprise us. They all know they can rely on one another, one hundred per cent.” And that’s the key to working efficiently under pressure.
After all: The competition never sleeps. The view from the offices of Lufthansa Cargo makes manifest how office towers in Hong Kong constantly mushroom. Similar signs are very evident at the airport. “Many airlines have realised the potential of Hong Kong: The home carrier Cathay Pacific, for example, has built and opened its own cargo terminal with an initial capacity of 2.5 million tonnes last year. Joint ventures abound in the Hong Kong freight market, like the intra-Asian cargo carrier Air Hong Kong, jointly owned by DHL and Cathay Pacific. And no flight schedule period starts without an increase in frequencies into Hong Kong, be it passenger or freighter carriers.
Despite western influences, Chinese culture is predominant among customers. “It is highly important in Hong Kong that customers know their counterparts well and interact over time on a basis of trust,” Konstantin Stathopoulos knows. That’s why Lufthansa Cargo maintains close and regular contacts with forwarders. Dedicated sales tandems consisting of inside as well as outside sales representatives from the Lufthansa Cargo team in Hong Kong are in constant contact with their counterparts at the customers’ side - via phone, email, personal visits or even new technologies like Whats app or Messenger. “That creates trust, confidence and a cooperative spirit on both sides.”
The Chinese cargo market will continue to grow, Stathopoulos is certain. His assurance is substantiated by IATA forecasts and the aircraft manufacturers. Growth in Asia is projected to rise by between five and seven per cent, annually. The high growth rates will, however, slow somewhat in future,” Konstantin Stathopoulos surmises. “Hong Kong will nevertheless continue to play a leading role in the global air freight industry, since the city-state is a flourishing international hub for trade and logistics.“
A variety of factors favour Hong Kong – and not just an interesting culture and a booming economy. So “Approaching Hong Kong“ will continue to resound on the carrier’s fights to Hong Kong.