LH Cargo Sets Course for Cape Town

As of December this year, Lufthansa will start thrice-weekly passenger flights on the Frankurt-Cape Town sector operating an Airbus A340. From the cargo perspective, the upcoming service will complement the already dense network to and from South Africa.

The upcoming Cape Town flights close a gap in his airline’s African network, states LH Cargo’s Africa Director Hermann Zunker -  photo: hs
The upcoming Cape Town flights close a gap in his airline’s African network, states LH Cargo’s Africa Director Hermann Zunker - photo: hs

Good news for Hermann Zunker, LH Cargo’s Director Africa: his and his team’s workload will soon go up. Which might sound like a threat to many is rather sweet music in Hermann’s ears since the upcoming Cape Town flights will increase the uplift capacity by roughly 45 tons each week LH Cargo can offer local South African forwarding agents. “The CPT flights strengthen our presence in South Africa where we traditionally have a very strong position,” Herr Zunker states. This is proven by the daily Boeing 747-400 passenger flights on the route Frankfurt-Johannesburg and back, four freighter MD-11 services on the same route with intermediate stops in Nairobi and seasonal pax flights Munich-Cape Town during the summer period south of the equator, utilizing an A340.


Despite the lasting lack of growth, Africa’s traditional economic powerhouse is hit by, Zunker is quite optimistic to generate sufficient loads to fill the lower deck compartments of the upcoming A340 Cape Town flights. “Northbound, we see a lot of opportunities for the entire product range of perishables but also for automotive parts that we intend to capture a larger share of,” he says.
Indeed, there are numerous plants in the Western Cape Province, best known for their many prestigious wineries, that produce components and accessories for European car makers.

Uneconomic trucking over longer distances
According to manager Zunker, up to now, the company’s supplies are mostly trucked to Johannesburg where they are loaded on board a plane to be flown out. So far, only 20 percent of South Africa’s total air exports are processed via Cape Town International. This, despite the fact that “the airport is much closer to the dense regional industry than Johannesburg, which makes it more reasonable and cheaper to bring the items there instead of trucking them all the way to distant O.R. Tambo Airport,” he proposes a gradual change of supply chains. 

Stable rate situation
LH Cargo knows the local market quite well due to the seasonal Munich flights but also because the airline used to serve the Frankfurt-Cape Town sector until their cancellation in 2014 (???). “The Cape Provinces are no unknown territory to us,” Zunker holds. “We maintained close relations to many of the forwarding agents doing business in Cape Town who continued being our customers even though we stopped operating the FRA-CPT flights for some time.”
As to imports, he expects machinery parts, IT equipment, pharmaceutical and alike products to stand on top of the agenda. “Competition is tough but I expect to capture a reasonable share of the cargo traffic to and from Cape Town once we commence serving this route.”
Touching the rate situation Zunker states: “Our services rendered together with our capacity offerings, reliable operations and long-time experience gained in different African sub-markets make us competitive despite occasional rate fluctuations.”

Kenya and Egypt perform well, LH Cargo
Asked about Nairobi, another African hot spot served by the German cargo crane he reports a “very satisfying business developing from January until now.” “The local flower and vegetable market is dominated by five or six large forwarding agents that we closely cooperate with. “Our approach geared towards sustainable customer relations pays off,” he emphasizes. Currently, LH Cargo operates five weekly MD-11 freighter flights linking Frankfurt with Nairobi and a Boeing 737 passenger flight operated by Swiss partner Private Air. As of next September the 737 will be replaced by an A340 belonging to the LH fleet. 
Touching other local African market served by his carrier Hermann say that in addition to South Africa and Kenya, the Egyptian market is running well too. In contrast, oil dependent countries like Nigeria are hit by significant financial cuts since energy prizes have sagged lately, forcing governments to cut their investments in infrastructure projects. “This is clearly perceptible when being there.”
The slump some oil exporting African countries go through is hardly felt by his airline, he says because “our traffic to Nigeria and other energy-rich sub-Saharan places is rather limited.”

Heiner Siegmund

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