Cargolux in Turbulence Again

Officially he’s on vacation due to being overworked. But according to internal sources in Hong Kong Cargolux’s newly appointed Vice President Asia, Robert Song has been dismissed. Too many errors and mounting customer complaints seem to be the reasons for Song’s forced exit.

Waiting for taking off to Zhengzhou – Cargolux freighter at Luxembourg Findel Airport
Waiting for taking off to Zhengzhou – Cargolux freighter at Luxembourg Findel Airport

 The Song case has not been made official yet. But Cargolux representatives in China confirm behind their hand that the manager has been ousted from his office, although according to official reports he’s taking a two week holiday. This came after a number of major forwarders had openly resisted any cooperation with Cargolux as long as Song keeps sitting in the carrier’s East Asian driver’s seat. If fired, it was a very short stay. The highly contested former Air New Zealand and AirBridge Cargo manager joined Cargolux only last April despite internal warnings, and was nominated as Senior VP Asia & Pacific.


Song was backed by Cargolux’s main shareholder (35%) the Henan Civil Aviation and Investment Company (HNCA) whom he worked for as a senior advisor. His appointment was also supported by influential board members of Luxembourg’s flag carrier, namely Tom Weissgerber and Paul Helminger. Now they’ll have to decide how much to pay Song as compensation in case his firing becomes official. 

Robert Song
Robert Song

Meanwhile, the top management at the carrier’s headquarters seems to be getting increasingly nervous since China’s Aviation Authority CAAC still did not give green light for flights between Luxembourg and Zhengzhou. Obviously, this mission doesn’t seem to be blessed with good fortune. First, the inaugural flight slated to take place April 24, was postponed to 29 May. Now, this announcement has become waste paper as well when the carrier acknowledged in a release that it needs more time to get Beijing’s okay for the flights. New date for commencing the Zhengzhou rotations is June 14th, reads a Cargolux release. However, there is no single word in the announcement, as to what has caused this new postponement. 


Asked by CargoForwarder Global directly, CEO Dirk Reich indicated some atmospheric disturbances that could have caused the CAAC’s reserved attitude. “In the past, too many different people have intervened to pave the way for us to obtain the traffic rights,” Reich said, without mentioning Song’s particular role. From all what is known this includes Zhengzhou’s airport officials, representatives of Henan Province, provincial air traffic controllers, and some individuals. These uncoordinated activities might have given Beijing’s officials the impression that they have been put under pressure from different sides, Reich speculates.

Dirk Reich
Dirk Reich

Last week, Cargolux submitted a fresh application for dissolving Beijing’s reluctance and finally getting the traffic rights, “after we have checked all documentation 150 percent,” the CEO states. Simultaneously, the executive board has laid all competencies in the hands of Graham Hurst, the carrier’s Head of Traffic Rights to further negotiate the flight issue with the CAAC representatives. 


Although the new date communicated by Cargolux for the inaugural flight is June 14, CEO Reich wouldn’t exclude an earlier start of these services. “I still see a slight chance we might begin flying this route on 29 May, as previously scheduled,” he told CargoForwarder Global. But lacking a written consent by the CAAC this date comprises a financial risk since “our clients need to be sure on which day exactly we commence our services,” Reich says.   

After Beijing has given green light for the Zhengzhou project Cargolux will offer the market two rotations per week. The frequencies will be doubled in the second half of July. In addition, in September or October two of the four weekly flights will be routed via Italy (Milan Malpensa), announces Dirk Reich.


Heiner Siegmund

Write a comment

Comments: 4
  • #1

    Almut Caanitz (Monday, 19 May 2014 19:39)

    Well done,
    highly interesting update. Firing Song might jeopardize the Henan deal.

  • #2

    Phil (Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:19)

    If fired, good riddance ! He is a loose cannon being paid way above his ability.

  • #3

    Stan Wraight (Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:37)

    ....Much better with more info.
    Best Regards

    Stan Wraight
    Executive Director
    SASI – Strategic Aviation Solutions International

  • #4

    Kevin (Tuesday, 20 May 2014 12:46)

    Interesting story. Clearly illustrates the poor knowledge of the particular market situation in China the members of Cargolux’s Supervisory Board had when giving their consent to appointing Robert Song into such a prominent role. Otherwise they would have known that this gentleman was relieved from his duties by his former employer AirBridge Cargo on grounds of very 'creative' commercial agreements. While being in charge for ABC he had set up an ecosystem, which endeared him to important players in the logistics scene and obviously assured him a lot of support in mainland China.
    Keep up the good work!
    Full name of author withheld by CFG