COVID-19 pandemic crisis has undoubtedly affected the global economy, and more so the travel and tourism with flying restrictions to specific regions and significantly reduced demand for leisure travel.
Pakistan’s aviation industry has struggled since the act of terrorism on internationally acclaimed hotel chain back in 2008. However, through CPEC project’s second-hand effect in increased business travel, the industry had only just begun to get back on its feet.
It has proven to strengthen travel from the far-east sector, and influenced visits of key foreign travelers, including but not limited to the Sikh pilgrims, the Royal delegations, and other key diplomats.
According to the recently estimated figures, the Pakistan aviation industry has suffered an overall loss of more than PKR 20 billion due to suspended airline operations. It is likely to cast a darker shadow on the existing outlook if the pandemic relapses with the second wave of a surge in cases.
Fortunately, not all is doom and gloom within the local aviation supply chain. The consumer end is brutally battered by the pandemic, however, organizations responsible for handling repatriation flights and air cargo supply chain during the COVID-19 crisis are working closely to remain above the waters.
Such organizations include the ground services provider, at the back end of all airline operations. Currently in Pakistan, there are three players that comprise the tiny market of ground handlers, one of which traces its roots back to UAE; Gerry’s dnata.
The growth of ground handling industry in Pakistan
At a time when markets over the world have been roiled by concerns of a global recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one player in Pakistan’s aviation industry stands committed to maintaining its upward trajectory.
A joint venture formed just shy of three decades, Gerry’s dnata is a startling amalgamation of global and local flavors. Pakistan’s nascent aviation industry while presents several opportunities for improvement and growth, Gerry’s dnata seems to have realized this potential in the abyss of unexplored depths.
The only business entity to have ever invested more than 50 million U.S. dollars over last five years, including the establishment of the first and the only automated, artificial intelligence and machine learning backed air cargo operating warehouse, is serving a substantially large part of the international airline market share from Pakistan.
Few names that come to mind include Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, China Southern Airlines and DHL.
The market trend over the last six years show a heavily skewed picture towards Gerry’s dnata. On Skytrax 2019 ranking for top global airlines, China Southern Airlines (#14) and Etihad Airways (#26) have made a strategic move towards Gerry’s dnata in a short span of two years.
Whereas, Turkish Airlines (#27), Azerbaijan Airlines (#52), Saudi Arabian Airlines (#57) and Air China (#99) amongst the top 100 airlines of the world, have been relying on Gerry’s dnata for their complete passenger and cargo handling operations in Pakistan.
Etihad Airways has always been a key player amongst hospitality brands, that easily puts other UAE based airlines in a tight race. Its splendor and luxurious stature as an airline deliver an experience that is boundless to one’s imagination.
The airline has helped Abu Dhabi establish itself as a global hub, connecting over 120 stations, ascertaining its ideology that no detail is too small, no idea is too big. To further ensure that the brand is consistently delivered to one of its most popular air travel regions, Pakistan, it appointed Gerry’s dnata last month as its ground services provider.
For Gerry’s dnata, Etihad Airways passenger business is an addition to its already decorated portfolio of 15+ airlines. Back in 2017, Etihad Airways awarded its fastest-growing cargo division Etihad Cargo to Gerry’s dnata. Etihad Airways operations were previously managed by a small local player.
The recently issued NOTAM (Note To Airmen) by Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority finally shows a silver lining on the skies, with a positive go-ahead to restart international flight operations. Soon enough, Etihad Airways will follow suit to begin scheduled passenger operations.
Ground handlers: The unsung heroes of pandemic
According to our sources, Gerry’s dnata has handled more than 200+ passenger repatriation and cargo charter flights, transporting medical supplies and food provisions, during the period of Mar-Jun ’20, making it the most favored ground handler for these crucial operations within Pakistan.
Emirates Airlines, currently being handled by Gerry’s dnata, has so far exported more than 13,000 tons of meat and vegetables to the UAE sector to continue the supply of these essential items during the crisis.
In addition to the above, COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sales have positively impacted Pakistan exports. After an attempt to curb the shortage, the Government of Pakistan had lifted export restrictions on face masks, allowing a loosely estimated export value of USD ~100 million.
Meeting the demand for this supply has been achievable through increased air cargo transportation.
The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority, in a series of NOTAMs issued for COVID-19 related decisions, had earlier declared semi-commencement of international and domestic flight operations. This has been supported by the implementation of certain COVID-19 prevention SOPs, to ensure the safe and secure travel of passengers.
Along these lines, Gerry’s dnata initiated disinfection services for aircraft, passenger baggage, and cargo, and also implemented support services for temperature screening and baggage sorting.