AACO members offered access to global ULD pool

Arab airlines are to be offered common access to a global ULD pool through a deal signed between AACO and Unitpool.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  December 30, 2003

Arab airlines are to be offered common access to a global ULD pool through a deal signed between AACO and Unitpool. AACO members will also benefit from the fact that under the agreement with the ULD management company, the price of the service will fall, as more of them sign up for it. At present, the majority of airlines around the world own their own ULDs. However, tracking the large number of units used creates a management headache for the carrier, and the inefficient use of the ULDs means that airlines end up owning too many of them. Pooling enables more effective use of ULDs, as a number of carriers share the units between them. “Because of the consequence of pooling the ULDs for a number of airlines, we can create synergies that enable each of the members to use less ULDs,” says Phillip Hill, managing director, Unitpool. “If you pool airlines together, then they will need 15-20% less ULDs [in total]. That obviously means that if they [the airlines] are buying the ULDs themselves then they are buying 15-20% more than they actually need,” he adds. Unitpool, which is 50% owned by Swissport, also frees carriers from the burden of looking after their own ULDs. The airline’s existing stock can be integrated into the central pool, and future requirements are then managed centrally. “We pool the ULDs for our airlines and we take on full responsibility for purchasing, repair and for globally controlling and managing the ULDs,” says Hill. To make the system work, Unitpool and a new member assess how many ULDs need to be available in each of the carrier’s stations. Unitpool then ensures that these agreed stock levels are met, which frees the carrier from this task. Presently, the company has ULDs in 150 stations around the world to serve its 20 existing members, which include Swiss, World Airways and SN Brussels Airlines. Within the region, Unitpool is convinced there are extensive cost savings to be generated for AACO members due to their overlapping networks. “There are great possibilities [in the region] because a number of AACO members are serving the same airports, such as Dubai and Beirut, for example” says Hill. “And the more airlines that are serving a common airport, then the greater the opportunity to create cost savings for them,” he adds. To encourage Arab carriers to sign up, Unitpool has agreed a special deal with AACO. Essentially, as more AACO airlines join the pool, the lower the cost of membership for them will become. As such, the company is hopeful of persuading a number of the region’s airlines to join its pool, but Hill says “even if three or four signed up we would be delighted with that.” The one stumbling block could be the fact that Unitpool’s ULDs are all neutrally branded, which prevents airlines from using the units to promote themselves. However, Hill says that carriers soon realise that the advantages of pooling more than compensate for this lost marketing opportunity. “The units have to be commonly branded so that any of the members can actually use them… and you do get some airlines that are rather protective of their brand. However, once they hook into the concept and understand the advantages then it doesn’t become such a major issue,” he adds.

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