Animals by air: a growing vertical

WITH profit margins and yields continuing to be unsatisfactorily low, air cargo operators are increasingly diversifying into other areas. Animals transportation appears to be among the growing verticals.
Although the contribution (percentage) to overall annual revenues can be as low as four or five per cent, specialist animal shipments are seen by some within the air cargo industry as a sector that can proffer reliable repeat business – handled with care. 
However the complexity, expertise and high risks involved, along with the huge investment required in shipping live animals, make it a less attractive option amid continuing volatile market conditions.
Since its inception, small Israeli all-cargo specialist Cargo Air Lines (CAL) has benefited greatly from implementing a core strategem that carefully exploits such niche markets.
Animals ranging from thoroughbred racehorses and showjumpers, a giraffe, sheep – and even 900,000 pest-control bees – can be loaded on board any of its daily B747 freighter flights.
CAL’s marked success with livestock shipments includes recent major sporting events, such as The Kentucky Equestrian World Cup and the Longines Global Champions Tour.
“We operate six flights a week from Liége to JFK and we can carry between three to six horses on each of these flights," says Rami Marom, chief operating officer and vice–president of the ground handling at CAL. 
The horses can be worth up to €2-3million. Not surprisingly, they receive VIP treatment. 
“We put them in a special lounge and before they are loaded separately, special flooring is put down, so they do not slip,” he reveals.
Moving away from large-scale freighter animals shipments, carriers are witnessing a growth trajectory in jet-set domestic pets. 
Diplomats and premier league footballers are among the doting owners making pet travel increasingly lucrative. 
PetAir UK’s unique selling point is that it is the only pet shipper in the UK to be run and owned by vets. 
“We are essentially a veterinary practice specialising in the movement of pets all over the world. We pride ourselves as being the only truly one-stop shop for humans wishing to move their pets abroad,” declares Bob Ghandour, its veterinary consultant and director. 
“We are not a cargo shipper who has branched out to the seemingly lucrative world of pet shipping.”
Ghandour also argues the company’s veterinary-trained team can solve more complicated problems regarding animal welfare – unlike other businesses operating in the pet travel market. 
“We have a very high proportion of vets and vet nurses on the team, so we can help clients with older pets and we can complete all necessary veterinary export documentation in-house.”

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