Mena Aerospace Enterprises this week launched a cargo division, after pausing its business aviation activities to focus on what it sees as a more dynamic sector. The Bahrain-based Mena Cargo has started services with a single Boeing 737-300F narrowbody and a 777-200ER operated under a wet lease by Portugal-based Euro Atlantic Airways.
During a press conference on Wednesday, business development director Brian Hogan said that the carrier intends to add three or four more 737-800 freighters to its fleet, as well as a widebody aircraft. He told reporters that rapid expansion of the air freight sector, especially in response to the slowdown in the passenger market during the Covid pandemic, continues to make it hard to source suitable aircraft and positions for passenger-to-freighter conversions. The company's first 737 is a former Southwest Airlines aircraft converted by Pemco.
“The [long-haul] future is with the 777s if we can get hold of them, but there are no conversion slots until around 2023 or 2024 so we’ll have to bridge our operations with aircraft such as 767s and A330s,” said Hogan. He added that Mena needs to build its fleet to at least 15 to 20 aircraft to achieve “critical mass.”
Mena Cargo sees its most promising growth opportunities in the Gulf region, as well as in Africa and Southeast Asia. Hogan said the new operator is giving a lot of early attention to expanding in the Saudi Arabian freight market and is also considering the establishment of a base in locations such as Singapore, Thailand, or Malaysia.
According to founder and managing director Mohamed Juman, Mena Cargo aims to set itself apart in the already crowded air freight sector by focusing on serving a cluster of strategic partners, for which it will provide a comprehensive IT-based logistics service. He said that the e-commerce sector still shows a lot of growth potential in the regions in which it is concentrating.
Express delivery giant DHL already operates a hub operation in Bahrain, and Jaman said he intends to complement other carriers rather than compete directly with them. The new operator also plans to serve secondary airports as a way of providing new cargo connections in markets like Africa.
In the business aircraft market, the Mena group’s MAE Aircraft Management division has been operating a pair of Learjet 60s based in Dubai. Its Mena Technics subsidiary operates an FBO at Bahrain International Airport.
According to Juman, a decline in demand for private aviation during the pandemic prompted Mena’s management team to initiate a change in strategic direction. The company now seeks new investors to support plans to acquire aircraft, rather than lease them.