Cargo operations at KIA are really flying high with the introduction of new facilities dedicated to meeting the needs of Kuwait's diverse freight community. Already handling in excess of 126,000 tones of cargo annually, inauguration of the new consolidation facility has boosted throughput by around 10%, enabling local forwarders to improve efficiency as they handle an increasingly diverse range of consignments. Opening the facility - restricted to freight forwarders in possession of a valid airfreight license from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry - could not have come at a better time, with cargo volumes through KIA remaining unaffected by events outside the region. The new facility is just one of a series of upgrades to the airport's 8,000 cu m cargo complex - in the last few years in excess of KD 1 million (US$3.1 million) has been invested - to ensure it remains a prime freight focus for the Gulf.

In addition to large quantities of belly hold cargo carried on scheduled passenger services - loaded and unloaded at the passenger terminal several airlines operate regular freighter flights to and from Kuwait. Comprising a 5,600 cu m import warehouse and 2,300 cu m export facility, KIA's cargo terminal is equipped to handle a diverse spectrum of traffic. With capacity for up to 600 tonnes of freight, the cargo complex boasts a range of specialised facilities, in addition to general storage, enabling it to handle any kind of consignment.

In December 2001, as part of Kuwait's "Electronic overnment" initiative to provide better customer service, a new Customs Automation System was brought online. Developed jointly by the Directorate General of Customs, Kuwait Airways and the Public Warehouse Company, it aims to streamline the transportation chain by enabling airline cargo manifests to be transmitted electronically to Kuwait Customs the moment an aircraft leaves its departure airport. Consignments are then precleared while the plane is in flight, helping to speed up release procedures after landing. It also offers customers unrivalled ability to trace the status of shipments by phone, fax, on-line or in person. Customers dialling the new Voice Information System - accessible on direct line on Kuwait 807070 - can obtain an instant voice or fax report on their shipment, plus information on flight schedules, documentation, import and export procedures, and storage. Kuwait Airways is the first carrier in the Middle East to offer such a tracking service, operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Status reports are also available online using the track and trace system on Kuwait Airways' web-site at com cargo complex. Entering the airwaybill number on the touchscreen display generates an instant report on the consignment's location, status and the charges due. The account may then be settled with a cashier and the cargo swiftly released. More changes lie ahead for KIA's cargo operations following the decision by the DGCA to introduce a second ground handling operator in order to enhance competitive standards.

The move, which is being welcomed by the airlines, is expected to deliver across-the-board improvements in efficiency while simultaneously ensuring that handling charges remain competitive.