Lufthansa Cargo Turns 20

Having become Europe’s leading airfreight carrier within 20 years is something that Lufthansa Cargo is rightly proud of. It is twenty years ago, on the 30th of November 1994 to be exact, that Lufthansa pooled its cargo services into a separate company, namely Lufthansa Cargo AG.

Nose-to-nose: MD-11F and Boeing 777F operated by LH Cargo  /  company courtesy.
Nose-to-nose: MD-11F and Boeing 777F operated by LH Cargo / company courtesy.

This was the starting date of a long road to success. A road which was never easy, fraught by many economic and political problems, but one which has after twenty years has made it the world’s leading and most innovative cargo airline.

How did it happen so fast?
The Lufthansa management recognized already back in the early “nineties” that cargo makes a very important contribution to the carrier’s success and that “by letting them do it by themselves,” would be much more beneficial for the organization in the long run.
Hence, the official start up of the Cargo AG.

It’s not as if LH were a stranger to cargo up until this turning point 20 years ago.
They had always been carrying cargo in the bellies of their aircraft and were at that time still running a cargo daughter company called German Cargo Services (GCS).
GCS, started and run by that well known cargo champion “Siggie Koehler” and later by Wilhelm Althen, who in turn became LH Cargo’s first CEO, started operations in the eighties with a fleet of DC8 and B707 freighters.
These services, as was the case with Cargolux and Martinair flights of those times, were based on so called “split-charter services”, mainly to the Middle and Far East.
German Cargo then spread its wings into regular, if not daily services to Nigeria.
This was the real catalyst of the future Lufthansa Cargo.

The new LH Cargo started in January 1995 still using some of those DC8s but which were quickly replaced by up to ten Boeing 747-200Fs as well as two Boeing 737Fs.
The B747-200F was in those days seen as the aircraft which finally revolutionized the air cargo business.

Carrying on the tradition of 20 years ago!
The actual transport mode of airfreight has not changed that much within the last twenty years.
It’s carried on aircraft!
But, the old 747-200Fs are long gone, having proven their worth, but becoming a costly burden on those carriers using them mainly because of their fuel thirst.
LH Cargo now runs a fleet of MD-11Fs and state-of-the-art Boeing 777Fs on a worldwide cargo network.
Even the MD-11s, which have proven to be great workhorses for cargo transport, are seeing the end of their days as LH Cargo switches more and more to using the modern “Triple Seven” freighter.

But it does not just stop there!
The past twenty years have been an important learning curve for the Lufthansa Cargo team.
New ideas have been developed and put into place as how to increase customer satisfaction and awareness. IT systems have been totally revamped to give better information flows both internally and for LH Cargo’s clients.
The carrier is pushing ahead with its aim of being totally digitally networked with all players within the logistics chain by 2020.

Remarkable investment program
Peter Gerber, LH Cargo CEO states that: “Cargo went from by-product to core business that now accounts for almost ten percent of sales of the Lufthansa Group.”
And, may we add, one which continues to make profits despite the setbacks that the logistics world continues to face.
Mr Gerber, who only recently took over the helm, adds: “We are shaping up Lufthansa Cargo for the future with the largest investment program in our company’s history.”

Unprecedented cargo spirit
Many milestones have been passed in the short 20 years of LH Cargo’s history.
The old team did a great job in getting it up and running it, whereby the present team, which is seen as being probably the most innovative and enthusiastic in the whole air cargo industry, has taken up the challenge of ensuring that Peter Gerber’s words come true. This is greatly supported by the incredible team spirit that inspires and motivates the carrier’s 4,600 staff. 

Here, a few of the milestones, which are far too many to be able to list here.

  • The first MD-11F which came in 1998 - they are still in the air today
  • A round the world freighter service started in 2001
  • Aerologic start up with B777Fs in 2009
  • The new Cargo cool Centre which opened its doors in 2011
  • The first own B777Fs join the fleet in 2013
  • And - last but not least - the recently announced joint venture between LH Cargo and ANA Cargo.

A milestone for future cargo operations.

John Mc Donagh

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