Maximus oportunitas for Maximus Air Cargo

Everything is possible' seems to be the unofficial tag line at the heavyweight- and outsize-focused, Maximus Air Cargo. And while the carrier still retains its heavy lift speciality which was the raison d'être for its creation nearly six years ago as one of its core focuses, it has gone on to diversify into the wet leasing realm. But Maximus appears intent on spreading its wings much further as it eyes what it sees as numerous opportunities to leverage its wide-ranging expertise.

Maximus, an Abu Dhabi Aviation Group company, was established in 2005 to provide tailored solutions for moving outsized cargo, something that after five years of operations has established it with a solid reputation as a reliable and effective allcargo carrier. With its fleet of eight all-cargo aircraft – one Antonov An-124-100, two Ilyushin IL-76TD and five A300-600RP2F (three will be delivered later this year) – Maximus’ operations cover a wide swath of the charter sector including scheduled, ad hoc charter, governmental, royalty and VIPs, military, airline and operators, and humanitarian sectors, including as the exclusive air relief support partner of the UAE Red Crescent. Speaking to Payload Asia on the sidelines of Air Cargo Europe in Munich, Maximus president and CEO, Fathi Buhazza said the recent purchase of three A300-600 aircraft will set the company’s immediate growth strategy for its cargo charter and more importantly, its growing ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) business. “Our business model in Maximus basically has two engines, one is the charter where we have one AN124 and two IL76 and we specialise in the oversize cargo business – that was the original focus of the company. But it’s not really the type of business where we can see sustainability in growth,” he says. “We need a growing engine and the ACMI business is quite interesting and also a business that has a lot of areas for innovation and room to come in with something new and this is what we are trying to do with these three new aircraft.” The three A300s were purchased from Japan Airlines with an average of only 14,000 hours of operation on them and are currently undergoing passenger to freighter conversion at the EADS EFW facility in Dresden, Germany. The freighter conversions will be delivered in roughly late-August, September and November, Buhazza said. Currently the company’s two existing A300s are operating scheduled cargo services on behalf of Etihad Crystal Cargo under ACMI contract. This potential for innovation in the ACMI business is what led Maximus to enter the business segment with a service it calls ‘ACMI Select’. Buhazza notes that while a typical ACMI contract simply splits the supply side from the customer’s focus on commercial control without really addressing the direct operating cost. “The one thing that really struck me when looking at this model is the question of who is taking care of the direct operating costs. Because fuel management, landing, parking, etc are all substantial cost items,” he notes. With Maximus’ new ACMI product “we are taking it from the classic ACMI contract to a partnership contract where we help the customer to reduce his overall cost with the idea that he will be profitable and hopefully he will want more aircraft. It is more of a partnership than a contract,” he says. Starting his career in the air force and then later as director of flight operations for the Presidential Flight which provides worldwide, unscheduled VIP/VVIP flights for the Government of the United Arab Emirates, Buhazza says the concept of top-notch customer service becomes deeply engrained. “And I can see that there is a lot of room in the cargo industry for such competency and such a product and this is what we are trying to do.” While he admits that Maximus is not the only ACMI provider taking this approach, “from what I see there is very limited innovation and there is also limited focus on the customer relations and customer support.” “We have now built up our A300-600 fleet to five aircraft which is enough for us for this year and the objective now is for us is to put those aircraft into business and get them producing money.” Next year Maximus will look at adding another aircraft type, he says. “We are looking next year for another growth segment and there is a lot of opportunities, but it is not a matter of what aircraft are we going to buy, but what type of business we want to be in and this is going through detailed studies.” “We are working towards finalising where we want to be. Initially we thought lets focus on just one thing and run after it, but we see that we have a lot of capabilities and we cannot just bury them away. We have established a very good capability when it comes to the charter business because we do a lot of VIP and VVIP charters where we have things done from end-to-end. That model we are trying to put on the market now,” he says. This includes the possibility of Maximus operating its own scheduled network. “One risk with the ACMI business is that your destiny is not in your own hands and sometimes it’s scary when you’re playing with toys that cost millions and millions of dollars. There is a learning curve there for sure and we don’t want to close doors, so we are keeping lots of doors open!” The company has a clear long-term vision through 2025, which Buhazza says runs parallel with that of Abu Dhabi itself, and that is to be a major player in the Middle East when it comes to cargo – not only in charter and ACMI, but in terms of also providing logistics supply chain solutions as well. “We are also talking to certain people to manage our own cargo facility, so as you can see we have a lot of things going. Everything is possible,” he adds. While acknowledging the Middle East region is intensely competitive, he insists Maximus has an advantage over a lot of people. “Number one, we’re based in Abu Dhabi so geographically speaking we’ve got a very good position. We’ve also got a very high customer focus and we have a proven record over the last six years,” he says noting the company has delivered a profit in every single year of operation in the six years since the first flight with 2010 seeing revenue rising 16 per cent over 2009 to reach US$117.67 million with profit up 18 per cent to $10.19 million. The company has also grown from 450 flown hours a year to nearly 11,000 hours currently. “We’ve proven we can develop and we’re very hungry also and I also think being in the UAE is a window of opportunity with all this growth and the infrastructure the government is setting up, be it the airport, roads, the ports – everything is growing and I think it is the perfect time to go and grab this opportunity and be a leader in this area.” Maximus is also working towards obtaining its own AOC, possibly in July this year, in the Ukraine. With that the company is looking to add additional capacity on dry lease, or through acquisition of IL76 aircraft in order to develop the Ukrainian market. What we are building on here is the fact that over the last six years we have established our name as being a reliable, non-Russian/Ukrainian Ilyushin and Antonov operator and I think there are a lot of opportunities to be built upon if we can increase our capacity.