ACE Awards 2019: Top airports, carriers chosen for Air Cargo Excellence


Emirates and Qatar Airways, which both barely missed a Certificate last year with 100-point scores, each took home some precious metal this year, with Emirates reclaiming the first-place Diamond Award, with 104 points, in the Large Carrier category (1 million tonnes and above; see Top Carriers List) – their first Diamond since their back-to-back wins in 2015 and 2016.

Last year, Emirates SkyCargo launched cargo services to several new destinations, including freighter services to Maastricht in the Netherlands, as well as belly capacity on passenger flights to Santiago, Chile, and to Stansted and Edinburgh in the U.K., said Henrik Amback, senior vice president of cargo operations for Emirates. “We, for the first time, became CargoiQ certified and AEO certified by UAE Customs while we had a successful Surveillance Audit for our GDP certification,” he added.

For 2019, SkyCargo has already commenced once-a-week freighter operations to Bogota, Colombia. “We now offer cargo capacity to six destinations in South America – Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Viracopos and Quito,” Ambak said.

Looking to the future, Ambak said SkyCargo customers will continue to want specialized handling for their cargo. Over the last two years, Emirates SkyCargo has focused on creating specialized products for air transport, such as Emirates Pharma, which flew more than 73,000 tonnes of pharmaceuticals in 2018. “In the last 12 months, we also moved over 400,000 tonnes of fresh vegetables, fruits, other produce, meat and seafood under the Emirates Fresh product,” Ambak added.

Qatar Airways Cargo, a frequent Certificate winner in years past, finally made it to the medal stand, taking the Platinum Award in the Large category, with 102 points. The Gulf carrier has been adding new routes in the last year, including twice-weekly trans-Pacific 777F service from Macau (MFM) to Los Angeles (LAX), and said it will launch two new freighter routes to Guadalajara and Almaty, returning to Doha via Hong Kong.

Qatar’s 102-point Performance subcategory score was helped, no doubt, by the rollout last fall of its Descartes-based paper-free mail management system service at more than 50 stations throughout its network. It also said its airmail transport tonnage, underpinned by demand for e-commerce, increased by 40 percent in 2018, compared to the previous fiscal year. Both Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines, meanwhile, scored just high enough (101 points each) to become co-winners of the Gold Award in the large carrier category. Turkish also scored a respectable 105-point showing in the Value subcategory. 

In the Small Carriers category (handling up to 999,999 tonnes per year) the surprises came early. Last year’s Gold Award winner, Delta Air Lines, leap-frogged to the top, earning the Diamond Award by scoring 111 points – the highest overall score in the ACE Awards carriers program for 2019.

For the Customer Service subcategory, Delta recorded a 112-point score (another record high for subcategory evaluations of carriers this year), which Shawn Cole, vice president of Delta Cargo, chalked up to “providing transparency in the cargo shipment process.” Last year, Delta debuted its DASH Critical service for the U.S. market and Critical for international shipments, plus the introduction of ULD Bluetooth tracking.

“We have also been focused on increasing our digitalization offering,” Cole added. “Since introducing the redesigned website we have seen a 20 percentage-point increase in global online bookings compared to 2017.”

With 104 overall points, plus a 108-point score in Performance, AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) captured the Platinum Award. Mariya Musatova, marketing director for Volga-Dnepr Group, said the Russian carrier introduced several new frequencies to ABC destinations in 2018, such as Ho Chi Minh City, Shenzhen, Budapest and Columbus, to provide customers with various types of cargo services, such as “special shipments, and temperature-sensitive, outsize and heavy, dangerous goods, e-commerce and others.”

Etihad Airways, which last won Platinum in 2016, earned a Gold Award with a modest 101-point score. Certificates of Excellence for carriers were hard to come by this year. In fact, after the top three winners, there were no other carriers that scored the necessary 101-point minimum threshold to earn a Certificate in the smaller carrier category. 

Perhaps the largest eyebrow-raisers were the many long-time winners that just missed the cut at the baseline 100-point level – namely Lufthansa, China Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Air France-KLM – and a few other generally well-regarded carriers that slipped into the upper-90s, such as Air Canada, United Airlines, American Airlines and China Southern. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines, which used to own the Small Carrier category for years, failed to generate enough responses to make the list.

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