Drones are the missing piece of delivery logistics jigsaw, says Astral Aviation CEO

Drones are the missing piece of delivery logistics jigsaw, says Astral Aviation CEO

African air cargo will recover faster from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic than the passenger traffic industry, Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Kenyan cargo airline Astral Aviation, tells The Africa Report.

Next year will be “challenging” as global trade will be affected by this year’s recession, says Gadhia. Still, the African air cargo industry will recover in the second quarter, “a lot faster than the passenger industry.” Increased intra-African trade will provide a boost following the full ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area, he adds.

Astral Aviation, a cargo airline operating out of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, has operated in Africa since 2000. The company saw revenue increase by 50% in the first quarter, driven by demand for personal protective equipment sourced from China, as well as high food needs.

The company has benefitted from additional demand as it fills a need to transport cargoes which had been moving in commercial passenger aircraft which stopped flying.  The firm was initially overwhelmed by the surge in demand for its services. “We have coped very well,” says Gadhia.

The pandemic has also brought Astral challenges.

  • Crew quarantine restrictions, weekly COVID-19 testing and aircraft being fumigated before and after flights have all added to operating expenses.
  • The company does not hedge fuel purchases and is a part of the AFRAA (African Airlines Association) Fuel Program which enables it to get competitive prices by consolidating its fuel requirements with member airlines.
  • “While there has been significant volatility in the first half of 2020, we expect the fuel prices to stabilize in the second-half,” says Gadhia.

Drones

Astral serves 65 destinations and has operated over 300 humanitarian charters for medical and food items. The company has a diverse fleet on various lease arrangements. Its largest planes are two Boeing 747-400Fs and three Boeing 727Fs. Astral has also placed an order for a Boeing 767-200F to operate within Africa and to the United Arab Emirates.

Drones are increasingly becoming an essential part of Astral’s operations.