Etihad Crystal Cargo, a division of the United Arab Emirates’ national airline Etihad Airways, has introduced self-handling in Thailand, in a move aimed at benefiting the airline’s growing presence in the rapidly expanding Far East cargo market.

The locally based Etihad team took sole charge of all cargo sales and customer service activities in Thailand on October 1, duties previously carried out by local cargo general sales agent, United Kargo Kare since 2004.

Des Vertannes, Etihad Airways’ executive vice president Cargo, said: ‘United Kargo Kare has done a great job since 2004 in helping Etihad to establish a strong presence in this important market. The team’s dedication and commitment to promote and sell our products and services has been first class.

‘As Etihad Crystal Cargo’s second largest market in the Far East, Thailand is of major strategic importance to us and an important hub for the strong off-line markets in South East Asia. We expect airfreight in this market to grow at an average of around eight per cent during the next five years. The time is right now for us to move to self-handling as we seek to exploit the enormous opportunities that lie ahead.’

Etihad Crystal Cargo carries an average of 1,000 tons of cargo between Thailand and Abu Dhabi each month, a 30% increase on 2007. Cargo goods regularly carried include perishables, electronics and other export goods from Bangkok to the Middle East, Europe and America.

Etihad Crystal Cargo currently offers its cargo customers in Thailand cargo capacity in wide bodied passenger aircraft twice a day between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok.

The cargo division currently operates to more than 50 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. These destinations include freighter operations to Addis Ababa, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Colombo, Dhaka, New Delhi, Frankfurt Hahn, Khartoum, Lagos, Chennai, Shanghai and Shenzhen, together with a Cargoitalia codeshare flight to Milan.

Etihad Airways recently won the ‘cargo operator of the year” award at the Supply Chain and Transport Awards.