Yet, another destination was added to AirBridge Cargo’s fast growing network. Last Friday (9 May) the Russian airline launched scheduled services between Moscow Sheremetyevo and Munich Airport. At the beginning the route will be served once a week. But in the drawer of the Moscow-based ABC headquarters are already plans to double the capacity in the near future.
It was a stylish ceremony organized by Munich Airport to welcome ABC’s inaugural freighter flight to Bavaria. The local fire brigade saluted crew and plane with a typical water shower while the aircraft was taxiing from the runway to its stand. After arrival both ABC executives and the two pilots were handed over traditional beer mugs that are a legend in Southern Germany. Shortly after the delegation members met at a neat restaurant to further converse business aspects, while being served tasty Bavarian food, typical ‘Weisswurst’, and beverages consisting mainly of hops and malt.
Fast developing industrial hotspot
Bavaria is one of Germany’s main industrial powerhouses, hosting multinationals like Adidas, Puma, BMW, Audi, or Siemens together with countless medium-sized enterprises that have often achieved world champion status in their particular fields of business. What strikes one as odd, however, is that hardly any cargo carriers are serving the airport so far. It’s less than a handful, including the major integrators and Cargolux. That’s about it, except for four weekly flights conducted by carrier Atran in cooperation with TNT. These services, operated by Boeing 737 freighters, were commenced by the wholly owned subsidiary of ABC on January 9, providing a feeding opportunity for the parent company. “The Atran flights will in no way be influenced by our jumbo freighter services,” ensures ABC’s Head of Sales and Business Development Andrey Andreev. “Up to now the vast majority of shipments handled at Munich have been transported in the holds of passenger aircraft,” states Markus Heinelt, Director Traffic Development Cargo. However, much higher volumes are constantly trucked from Bavaria to Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Paris to be uplifted there, what annoys Munich’s cargo bosses.
High load factors both ways
Although ABC’s new weekly flight won’t cause a radical change of flows, it offers local shippers and forwarding agents an alternative to having their goods air freighted from airports further away. “This way, the speed of services is increased and the costs reduced,” emphasizes ABC’s newly appointed Senior VP Marketing and Sales, Robert van de Weg (please see interview). The Munich event was Robert’s first official public appearance as ABC executive since the beginning of May when the former Cargolux sales chief took over his new position at AirBridge Cargo.
Munich is the third destination in Germany served by the airline, after Frankfurt and Leipzig/Halle, with the latter being commenced only one week prior to the first MUC flight. “Parallel to strengthen our presence at our hubs Frankfurt and Amsterdam it is our strategy to increasingly offer the market point-point services between Moscow and places that offer mounting cargo potential for uplifting goods,” explains ABC’s Andrey Andreev. Flights to Malmoe, Milan, Leipzig and now Munich illustrate this philosophy.
Andreas von Puttkamer, Munich Airport’s Senior VP Business Division Aviation, highlights another important aspect that might have convinced ABC to land in Munich and establish an own station at the airport: “cargo airlines flying from Munich to either North America or the Far East can expect high load factors both ways,” assures the manager. According to data, Munich-handled air freight consists of 60 percent exports and 40 percent imports. “Therefore, the commercial risk for carriers offering roundtrips from Munich to the U.S. or East Asia is quite limited,” assures manager von Puttkamer.
The new 747F flights do not affect the Atran services
While Cargolux links Munich with cities in the U.S., ABC’s 747Fs first operate into Moscow Sheremetyevo where all beyond shipments bound to China, Korea or Japan are transited to ongoing flights conducted by the carrier. The same happens – in the opposite direction – with imports destined for Munich or other European destinations.
According to manager von Puttkamer the decisive contact that led to ABC’s Munich flight was made in August last year, when MUC’s Markus Heinelt met with the Russian carrier’s Head of Sales Wolfgang Meier with both managers basically paving the way for this service. “That‘s a rather short period of time for establishing regular flights,” von Puttkamer says. In contrast, “acquiring a new passenger airline needs normally a number of years.”
As sources told CargoForwarder Global, ABC is keen to double their jumbo freighter services to and from Munich as soon as possible, without reducing the Atran flights. “They are well accepted by the local market, so there is no need for any change,” confirms Walter Morris, ABC’s Sales Manager at MUC.
Currently, ABC operates a mixed fleet of twelve Boeing 747-400 and 747-8 freighters. Which of the variants is deployed on the Munich route depends on aircraft availability and the volumes to be transported. The inaugural flight was conducted by a 747-400ERF, although ABC had informed Munich officials that they would land with one of their bigger 747-8Fs at the Bavarian capital. Obviously, this last minute operational decision came too late for MUC’s planning department to react, as the engraving in the top of a beer mug handed over as gift to the ABC delegation illustrates: that a Boeing 747-8F was welcomed at MUC.