Brussels Airlines Presents Weak Cargo Figures but Expects a Better 2016

The Belgian carrier’s FTK declined by almost 10 percent in 2015 compared to a year earlier. Its management speaks of a non-recurring slip-up, assuring that 2016 will see much more promising figures. Partner Lufthansa Cargo also reports a slight tonnage decline.

Geert Sciot  - pictures: hs
Geert Sciot - pictures: hs

A number of different factors sent the airline’s tonnage south last year. Main reason was ironically the strong increase in passenger numbers that went up by remarkable 9 percent, particularly on trunk routes between Brussels and African destinations, such as Kinshasa. More travelers leave automatically less space for cargo carriage since the holds of the airline’s 8 units comprising passenger fleet of A330 long-haul aircraft are jammed with luggage, reducing the room for air freight containers and pallets. 


Kenya exit hurt cargo
Another reason was a route change in accord and close cooperation with partner Lufthansa, which resulted for Brussels Airlines swapping Nairobi and Accra, with LH adding Nairobi to its African network. “Kenya used to be one of our key cargo markets that pushed volumes down after we exited Nairobi last year. Now it will need some time to develop the Guinean cargo market to compensate for the decline in tonnage suffered in Kenya,” explains SN’s Head of Communication Geert Sciot.

Maintenance in November is poison for cargo 
He adds a third aspect that lead to declining cargo figures in 2015 – an extensive C-check carried out last November on one of the carrier’s eight A330s. “This happened right in the middle of the peak season and drove our cargo figures further down,” states Geert. When asked if the change of sales agents from former partner ECS to its successor Air Logistics Group in July of 2015 has negatively affected sales figures he denies any correlation. “We don’t have any reasons to suspect that this step has adversely influenced our air freight biz.”

2016 looks bright for cargo, says the airline
Touching his airline’s cargo perspective in 2016 Geert reacts very optimistic. Above all, because of the forthcoming fleet increase in March, when Brussels Airlines will welcome its 9th A330, an Airbus -300 variant. The leased aircraft comes from Singapore Airlines and is less payload restricted compared to some of SN’s other A330s. “Because of its cargo friendliness we intend putting it on routes with high air freight demand such as Entebbe or Kinshasa,” announces the manager, adding to this that the exact operational flight plan for the youngest fleet member is not carved in stone yet. 

Due to the upcoming capacity growth Brussels Airlines will expand its transatlantic network, by adding Toronto as third North American destination after New York and Washington. “From a cargo perspective we consider the Canada route as being very interesting,” says Geert. This all the more since competitor Jet Airways gave up flying the sector Brussels-Toronto.    

Brussels-Mumbai could be next
Jet’s withdrawal stirred up Brussels Airlines’ interest in setting foot on the Indian market, by connecting Brussels with one of the thriving Indian cities, most likely Mumbai. However, this will only work if another A330 will join the fleet, SN’s tenth unit. The management’s decision pro or con India is expected to be taken within the next 2 or 3 months.

Simultaneously, the phasing out of either 3 or 4 of the carrier’s Avro Jets will commence, which are serving intra-European regional routes. The aircraft will be replaced by A319s that offer more space in their holds, which is good news for the cargo sales people. 

Rounding things up, Geert is positive that all these factors will give his company’s cargo activities a push in 2016, resulting in much more promising figures against the previous year.

Herman Hoornaert
Herman Hoornaert

Brussels Airlines Cargo lost a veteran
As the airline announces, its former Head of Cargo Herman Hoornaert has left the company for undisclosed reasons. Herman was a true cargo veteran and particularly highly familiar with the specifics of the different African markets. Last summer, he lost his function as cargo helmsman as result of the restructuring of SN’s air freight division and the handing over of key responsibilities to the new sales agent ALG. “We offered him a very attractive alternative within Brussels Airlines but regrettably he decided against this proposal,” said Geert.   

LH Cargo’s tonnage decreased as well
The carrier saw a slight year-on-year decline in sales last year. In total, LH Cargo transported 1.6 million tons of freight and mail against 1.7 million a year ago. “2015 was not an easy one for the air freight industry,” commented CEO and Chairman of the Board Peter Gerber. The manager went on to say that the flat Chinese market and the strong US dollar sent his airline’s volumes down. A homemade problem were the many pilot strikes and the weeklong walkout of the cabin crews last November that “weighed heavily on Lufthansa Cargo,” he said, torpedoing cargo transports in the lower decks of the passenger fleet. Herr Gerber confirmed that LH Cargo invested further in its products and network last year, adding new destinations in Brazil, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to its route map. He further stressed that in 2016 no major strategic changes are intended, instead the carrier will remain flexible and operate close to the market as done in the past.

Heiner Siegmund

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