In their latest round of bilateral air traffic negotiations that were held last week in Berlin, Russian and German traffic officials finally set aside the main obstacles limiting the flight rights of their cargo airlines. The extensive settlement ends a long period of exhausting Ping-Pong played by both sides, which started in 2007 when Russia suddenly banned Lufthansa Cargo from crossing Siberian skies, embarrassing the German side.
It was a rare sight during the complicated and conflict-laden Russian-German air traffic negotiations in Berlin last Thursday: After the meeting ended, only happy faces were seen on both sides. For instance that of Russian delegate Oleg Demidov: “We are very much pleased and happy with the result,” he told CargoForwarder Global exclusively; made possible mainly by the “extremely constructive approach of both chairmen,” emphasized the Deputy Director of Volga-Dnepr Group’s External Relations Department in his comment.
Echoes from Lufthansa and cargo carrier AeroLogic sounded similar. Both, however, declined to make any comment at this time.
When putting the results under the microscope, Russia indeed got what they have been demanding from their German counterparts for quite some time.
ABC can feel at home in Germany
In short: Volga-Dnepr, line-haul daughter AirBridgeCargo was conceded 5th freedom traffic rights out of Germany from any of the country’s airports to any point in North and Latin America they desire to send their Boeing 747 freighters to. Up to now, they were restricted to utilize FRA, MUC or LEJ when serving selected North Atlantic routes. Furthermore ABC was granted a third frequency per week, after having been restricted to two scheduled freighter flights up to this point, with the third one being conceded by the German regulator only as an optional charter. Additionally, their cargo flights to and from Germany can start and end at different airports. This terminates the restriction which forced ABC to use identical sectors like FRA-ORD-FRA before proceeding to Moscow.
The outcome of the air traffic negotiations gives AirBridgeCargo the “long requested operational flexibility,” praises Oleg. Having said that, he points out that ABC’s feeder subsidiary Atran has received 5th freedom traffic rights to restore operations with their Boeing 737 freighters on the Moscow-Munich-Liege route, every day from Monday to Friday. Berlin canceled these rights some months ago as a reaction to Moscow’s tough stance on air traffic matters, denying any concessions to German carriers.
AeroLogic obtained operational stability
Both Lufthansa Cargo and AeroLogic reacted restrained when asked about the benefits for German carriers resulting from the latest round of traffic consultations. All they said is that they are satisfied with the outcome. Simultaneously they point out that the results are confidential and the agreement reached is preliminary, until officially ratified by the transport ministries in Moscow and Berlin.
According to information obtained by CargoForwarder Global from people close to the case, Leipzig-based AeroLogic was designed as a second German cargo carrier by the Russians, giving the DHL Express-LH Cargo daughter (50/50%) the status of line-haul cargo carrier. This permits them to conduct scheduled flights across Russian territory, ending a seven-year period as a charter operator. AeroLogic has been longing for and striving to receive (for many years) this acknowledgement by the Russian regulator.
It guarantees their current 21 weekly nonstop flights across Siberian air space on routes from Leipzig to destinations in the Far East and back highly operational and correspondingly stable planning.
LH Cargo’s Boeing 777Fs nonstop across Siberia
Although they were reluctant to make any comments, Lufthansa Cargo seems to support the bilateral deal as well, despite the fact that ABC might siphon some of LHC’s transatlantic volumes into their freighter fleet’s main decks because of the new operational liberty granted by German air traffic negotiators. According to information obtained from external sources by CargoForwarder Global, the carrier was given nonstop flights to/from Beijing with their Boeing 777Fs, ending the technical stops in Siberia which had been demanded by the Russian regulator for a long time. If additional routes to/from Far East served by the carrier are subject of the new air traffic accord will be seen after the transport ministries in Moscow and Berlin published the exact wording of the agreement.
Heiner Siegmund / Michael Taweel