Who would have thought just over ten years ago that AirBridgeCargo, the Volga-Dnepr scheduled air cargo daughter, would advance to being the major cargo player at Frankfurt and Amsterdam
airports? Maybe only a handful of experts, if any.
The carrier has been growing steadily during the past years, adding new B74-8Fs to its fleet, introducing new destinations and air cargo products.
Even the lean years were good
The Moscow based airline has a proven track record which surely leaves many other carriers very envious.
2016 proved to be a somewhat good year for the air cargo industry and blessed carriers with an upswing in tonnages, somewhat better yields and fuel prices which remained low.
AirBridgeCargo was no exception - the fleet growing and new destinations being added.
However, there seems to be a distinct long-term planning behind the Russian carrier’s success. One which has paid off handsomely for the airline as well as for its now very large customer base.
No wonder that some national carriers in European countries are wondering how long it will be before ABC takes the lead cargo role in their areas.
A milestone 1,000 flights to AMS & FRA
AirBridgeCargo recently announced that they had operated in total more than 1,000 Boeing 747 freighter flights during 2016 to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and Frankfurt’s Rhine-Main Airport.
An all-time high and one which moves ABC further up the ladder in the top cargo league.
They are now the largest all-cargo carrier serving Amsterdam and range as number two behind the Dutch national carrier KLM with regards to tonnage moved from Amsterdam-Schiphol.
Frankfurt shows an almost identical picture
Here, ABC ranks as the second largest cargo carrier behind Lufthansa at Germany’s main airport.
Both airport’s cargo figures for 2016 would have looked totally different if AirBridgeCargo had not been a household name at their locations.
The Russian carrier’s fleet of B747Fs now totals 16 aircraft, with nine of them being the latest B7478F version. That’s around 2,000 tons of daily capacity.
ABC has been very successful in building its China to Europe traffic which is routed via their Moscow hub. This routing gives them a time and cost saving advantage compared to their Middle East competitors who are forced to take the longer Asia-Middle East-Europe route in order to serve their individual hubs.
In the meantime, 13 cities are being served within Asia.
But, it’s not just China-Europe and vice-versa
The Volga-Dnepr scheduled services daughter has also been steadily building up their USA destinations along with adding various new ones within Europe.
The European online destinations are14 in total, ranging from Spain’s Zaragoza in the south to Scandinavia’s Helsinki and Oslo in the north.
AirBridgeCargo serves 6 cities regularly in the USA. Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta and Dallas Fort Worth often see the blue and white 747s of ABC.
The product portfolio which runs under the ABC brand has been expanded upon with success during the past years. ABC DGR, ABC Fresh - just to name two of many - are offered to the carrier’s worldwide customer base.
ABC has come a long way in the last decade and with a now firm set product portfolio and routing pattern, is in a position to look positively to its future.
The product portfolio which runs under the ABC brand has been expanded upon with success during the past years.
“In this regard, we started out by focussing on dangerous goods, perishables and off-sized cargo and we doubled our B747 charter business over the last 2 years, states Robert van de Weg, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at Volga-Dnepr Group when CargoForwarder Global asked for his comments on ABC’s growth . The manager goes on to say: “Now we are moving up to new areas for example in pharmaceuticals. With the CEIV certification we achieved at our Moscow hub, we can replicate the advantages that we have had for general cargo – largely by avoiding trucking and double handling in Europe - to this important segment.”
AirBridgeCargo has come a long way in the last decade and with a now firm set product portfolio and routing pattern, is in a position to look positively to its future. “It is not just about aircraft and traffic rights – it is also about organising yourself well while creating a complete customer mindset in which there is no place for complacency and slowness,” Robert emphasizes.
Outlook 2017 and beyond
When asked about the current year, Mr van der Weg is cautiously optimistic. On the demand side, there are positive signs in terms of consumer spending and growing confidence of purchasing managers, he states. E-commerce replacing traditional air freight makes the total “air freight pie” larger than sea freight, Robert argues. This, because “ocean transports are generally less suitable to meet the transit time requirements.”
On the supply side: freighter capacity growth is expected to be limited – a smaller number of freighter carriers are still expanding but most are applying the “wait and see approach” by not growing and a few are going down in capacity.
Overall, it may be close to a zero sum game.
In addition, intercontinental passenger capacity may well soon face the end of the “sky is the limit” days.
Further he reminds that there are always the political turbulences which can give threats but also opportunities in various directions. “In air freight, there is always this large unpredictable component which we can worry about but which makes it so much fun to work in this segment!”
“We have to be prepared to limit our losses in bad days and to maximize our profits in good times.” One day soon, he concludes, this industry will be healthy again - until then it is “survival of the fittest.”
John Mc Donagh