Ijaz Ahmed, Cargo Manager, Peshawar
1. Tell us about yourself and your 3 decades-long journey with Emirates.
I am currently working for Emirates SkyCargo as Cargo Manager based in Peshawar, Pakistan. During my 30 years of airline service, I have attended many seminars, meetings, and workshops, including global cargo conferences held abroad, which have contributed to my industry knowledge and learning. I have also organized and conducted familiarization trips, and cargo agents’ award ceremonies on behalf of Emirates Sky Cargo.
2. Can you share some of your early experiences working with Emirates and how the airline has evolved since then?
The Emirates story started in 1985 when we launched operations with just two aircrafts. Today, we fly the world’s largest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, offering our customers the comforts of the latest and most efficient wide-body aircraft in the skies. We inspire travelers around the world with our growing network of worldwide destinations, industry leading inflight entertainment, regionally inspired cuisine, and world-class service.
When I joined Emirates SkyCargo in 1998, previously having experience in Flight Operations, I took on the challenge of learning the field of Cargo, which was new to me. In those days we had only two weekly flights and a high volume of cargo. This meant that we were challenged with demand being much more than the available capacity and I had to manage how we could accommodate the cargo. I also had to do this single-handedly since I was the only person handling cargo in Peshawar.
As Emirates places an emphasis on the career development of its employees and invests in providing training and guidance, I am proud to be part of the organisation.
3. As an experienced employee, what key values or principles do you believe have contributed to the success of Emirates?
Emirates is a very customer-focused company and this comes through in everything that we do. Ensuring that customers are satisfied, through our professionalism, transparency, efficiency, timeliness and being technologically-driven has helped us to achieve success and be at the top of the industry. Our values define our behaviour towards people, challenges, and opportunities. Emirates has always been known as one of the world’s best carriers and has won buckets of awards which endorse what our customers are saying. Most passengers say it is a lot to do with the fantastic service from economy to first class, the larger and more modern in-flight entertainment and our other products and services that make travel with us a worthwhile experience.
4. During your time at Emirates, have there been any challenging periods or industry disruptions that you and the company had to overcome? How did you navigate through those situations?
Yes, the most challenging one was the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted greatly a lot of industries. With the travel industry being amongst the most impacted, Emirates adopted the best approach to travelling in a safe and responsible manner, working with authorities around the world to resume travel with safety protocols in place. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols at its facilities and onboard its aircraft were put in place to control the spread of COVID and Emirates introduced temperature screening at its key office entry points, for example, while also implementing work from home policies for all employees where operationally feasible and raising awareness amongst its employees of safety protocols and to avoid non-essential travel to keep them safe.
Emirates maintained passenger flights to help travellers return home amidst an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions, and country lockdowns across the world. Whilst passenger operations were more limited, Emirates continued to maintain vital international air cargo links for economies and communities, deploying its fleet of B777 freighters for the transport of essential goods including medical supplies, vaccines and PPE across the world.
An example of a good initiative of Emirates during the pandemic was to convert some of its passenger aircraft to transport more cargo and using of its fleet to carry goods in the cabin, where we had to increase capacity and put cargo in the main cabin, especially to move essential goods and various other medical materials.
5. Throughout your career, how has Emirates supported employee development and encouraged a sense of belonging within the organization?
When it comes to employee development, Emirates focuses on it! It is amongst the best airlines to work for with competitive pay and benefits package, medical insurance, and opportunities to explore the world with Emirates. Amongst the non-cash motivational incentives provided by Emirates Airlines include employees’ paid annual leave. While, of course, money and benefits are important, other motivators for employees are intrinsic, and include meaningful work, growth, inspiration, and recognition. In the new age of the dispersed, digital workforce, keeping your employees motivated is harder than ever.
6. As you look back on your three decades with Emirates, what are some of the achievements that you are most proud of, both personally and professionally?
Emirates has always been known as one of the world’s best airlines and has won countless awards. Most passengers say it is a lot to do with the fantastic service from economy to first class, the best in the industry in-flight entertainment, and the gourmet dining options. The quality of its world-class hub airport in Dubai and onboard product and delivery standards are unique points that make Emirates stand out among the rest.
Some of the achievements and recognitions during my career working with Emirates:
- Long Service Award – In appreciation of twenty years’ service in 2018.
- Najm Award by Emirates Airline in 2008 – for successfully acquiring the maximum share of high yield small weight break shipments from the local market and for handling the new PEW office launch.
- Mabrouk Award by Emirates airline in Aug 2000 – For single-handedly looking after Peshawar station during the period June to October 1999 in the absence of a Cargo Controller.
- Certificates of appreciation by the Chairman of Emirates airline.
- Letter of Appreciation from Senior Vice President Cargo.
- Letters of appreciation from Cargo Manager Pakistan in Aug 1999.
7. As an individual with extensive experience, have you been involved in mentoring or guiding newer employees within the organization?
Yes, other than providing on the job training and guidance to our new joiners as well as our ground handling agents at our stations, I was happy to support on special assignments from Emirates before the commencement of cargo operations from Kabul, for example. This involved conducting surveys and reporting to SkyCargo on the market potential, airport operations, training needs of cargo and airport staff, office establishment and more. Two weekly Boeing 747 freighters started under my supervision at KBL. A standard operating procedure specific to the new station was prepared for the freighter handlers and training was provided to the staff for the initial period to ensure successful operations.
8. What advice would you give to Pakistanis starting their career in the airline industry, and how can they grow and thrive within the industry?
A career in aviation is a rewarding one, with many opportunities to develop one’s skills and progress while also earning a good salary and benefits. Aviation is a rapidly growing industry with plenty of opportunities for advancement that employees can look forward to.
Certainly, one of the most popular reasons to pursue a career in aviation is the ability to travel. If you’re someone who likes to explore, go on adventures, and see the world, the sky is pretty much the limit! Individuals who end up working for a major airline can enjoy flight benefits for themselves as well as for family members and designated travel companions.
In the aviation industry, there are so many career options available, far more than the usual jobs like pilot, air traffic controller, or aircraft mechanic that typically come to mind. When you pursue a career in aviation, a whole new world opens with a lot of job opportunities at your disposal.