Where’s Billund?, many might ask. It’s a place in the western part of Denmark, not really known as hot spot for air cargo. Not yet, but perhaps in future since volumes are increasing constantly and major package delivery firms have integrated BLL in their pan-European freighter schedules. In addition, it has become a hub for major trucking lines such as Jan de Rijk, Wallenborn Transports or Kim Johansen. What is still lacking are all-cargo carriers landing at Billund. But they will come because the ground is paved, states Billund’s Head of Cargo, Jan Ditlevsen.
Q: Jan, you speak of Billund as a multi modal cargo hub. This brings up the question how you manage to fit both flown and trucked air freight in your handling set-up?
A: Air cargo flown directly or transported by truck needs basically the same handling procedures. The two ground handling companies operating at Billund Airport have a special lean production in which they both handle air freight consignments under one roof – the forwarding agents can deliver all their cargo at one gate – there is a lean production/flow through the terminals in which we add value to the cargo, such as acceptance, volume/weight check, customs control, security, DGR-checks, palletizing etc. At the end the cargo will end up as air cargo, ready to be loaded on board an aircraft or a feeder truck linking Billund with major European airports, ready for being loaded on board an aircraft there.
Q: Your place is located right in the center of one of Denmark’s most industrialized regions, shown by enterprises such as Lego, Danfoss, Vestas and others. Integrators like DHL, TNT and UPS servicing your place are capitalizing on this. When are you welcoming the first all-cargo carrier offering scheduled flights?
A: Western Denmark is the ‘factory’ of Denmark. Approximately 70% of our country’s industry is located here. Interestingly enough, shipping lines like Maersk do already operate in the seaports in west Denmark. In addition to ocean freight we know that there is a critical mass of air freight to/from certain destinations, for instance the Far East, which can be very interesting for a cargo carrier. We are convinced, that we can offer direct scheduled cargo flights at Billund within a few years.
Q: Is Copenhagen airport your rival or partner.
A: We rather complement their traffic. Compared to us CPH is much bigger, offering air services to many international destinations and plenty of uplift capacity. So they play in a different league. However, for forwarders and shippers located in west Denmark we are becoming an address of choice.
Q: According to information air freight volumes enjoy an upswing at BLL compared with 2013. How much tonnage do you expect until year’s end and how about the ratio import / export?
A: We see an upswing in air freight and expect the express segment to follow within this year. Together, standard cargo and express products will ensure a record of 67,000 tons in 2014. This equals a growth rate of 3% compared to 2013. As to the ratio: 60% exports and 40% imports.
According to Boeing the air freight business will have an average growth of 5% per year. This more or less matches our figures we experienced in the past.
Q: What strategic role do cargo charter flights play at BLL?
A: Charter flights are important for Billund Airport, and we see the amount of charters growing again in 2014. In total, we expect 50 to 55 cargo charters in 2014 which would be one per week. We are a prime address for special flights like animal transports, uplifting oversized cargo etc. One major selling point is the fact that we offer operators 24/7 accessibility at Billund, excluding flights of noisy and non-compliant Chapter 4 freighter aircraft. Because of this the industry association of Neumuenster in Northern Germany has approached us some days ago, considering utilizing Billund for having their shipments sent out worldwide. Up to now they used Frankurt as their key hub, but since the night closure of Rhine-Main some of the exports sent out by member firms of the association miss the guaranteed running time. So for not losing business Frankfurt is no alternative for them any longer, they told us.
Generally speaking I must say that the industry knows about our ability to handle all sorts of charters with utmost care, extremely quickly and according to high quality standards. Because of its importance the charter biz has become part of our ambitious strategic plan that we are keen to develop further.
Q: Your 16,000 sqm comprising Billund Cargo Center is highly praised by many customers. What makes that facility so unique?
A: Thanks for this compliment, which we appreciate. The key factors are the spaciousness of the facility, the many value added services we provide and – above all – the skilled staff working here. We thoroughly train all our employees on different levels and in different categories in order to deliver an excellent service to our customers at a competitive price.
We have set up a special business unit to particularly deliver value added service to the basic products arriving or leaving Billund Airport, like crating, re-packaging, labeling or sorting, for instance. We intend developing this service further in close cooperation with forwarding agents.
Interview: Heiner Siegmund