The carrier intends to roll over its freighter fleet within the next 6 years, extend its own AeroLogic commitment, aims to work closer with their joint venture partners, and embark on a
course to harmonize key processes with its sister company Swiss WorldCargo.
The second part of this Exclusive will follow in our upcoming issue.
Chapeau! CEO Peter Gerber and his top management have set up an extremely ambitions agenda to make the freight carrier fit for the future. The program includes different modules with different
focal points that should, the scheme designers expect and hope, work like clockwork.
A prominent role within this framework of major tasks is the rollover of the freighter fleet, which LH Cargo aims to accomplish until 2024 - latest. This coincides with the carrier’s philosophy not to operate any aircraft longer than 25 years, with their last production freighter MD-11F having been delivered back in 2001.
Currently, LH Cargo operates a total fleet of 17 freighter aircraft: 12 MD-11Fs and 5 Boeing Triple Sevens. Their all-cargo fleet accounts for roughly 55 percent of the volumes flown by the carrier, with the tonnage stowed in the lower deck compartments of Lufthansa’s passenger fleet, plus the bellies of Austrian Airlines and Eurowings (long-haul) contributing the remaining 45 percent.
A350F – wishful thinking?
To match the outgoing 12 MD-11F’s capacity “we will need 8 to 9 Boeing 777Fs to replace them,” states Herr Gerber. These could be either brand new units or used Triple Seven freighters. “It’s premature to determine whether we’ll buy or lease these aircraft. Both options come into consideration, depending on their availability and the given market situation,” the CEO adds. He also does not rule out an order for Airbus A350 freighters, a decision that supposedly would be gladly received by the Airbus managers, provided the European plane maker offers an all-cargo version of its latest intercontinental passenger variant to the market.
During a recent discussion on this subject with CargoForwarder Global, a Toulouse-based Airbus manager announced the readiness of the plane maker to pay much greater attention to freighter programs as done in the past. “We have some serious catching up to do here,” he admitted.
Aerologic contract will be extended
Touching Lufthansa Cargo’s commitment in AeroLogic, the Leipzig, Germany-based DHL Express / LH Cargo 50%-50% joint venture, Gerber said that the contract for securing the further existence of this rather unique production platform in the years to come will be signed in 2018, prior to the expiration of the current pact a year after. Peter added to this: “Since AeroLogic’s first flight back in 2009 their operation has proven to be efficient, reliable and on-time.”
To enhance the competitiveness it turned out to be very helpful that the carrier obtained transpacific traffic rights in 2015 on the Hong Kong – Cincinnati, Ohio route. Further to this, AeroLogic was acknowledged line-haul rights designated by the Russian authorities last year. This eliminated the need to apply for overflight rights month after month to be allowed to cross Siberian air space, as previously required, reducing costs and administrative burdens, Gerber pointed out, thus enhancing the freight airline’s operational performance on routes between Europe and the Far East.
Closer ties with Swiss WorldCargo intended
Touching the Swiss Cargo – LH Cargo joint project on streamlining processes and leverage of synergies Gerber said that the scheme is progressing well. “We want to coordinate activities closer and prevent duplication of efforts as well as mistakes,” he stated. Coordinated by Achim Martinka, LH Cargo’s former head of The Americas, the key priorities the team members are working on are the IT integration and joint sales projects.
While Swiss WorldCargo is focused on marketing their passenger aircraft’s lower deck compartments, serving a manageable network, LH Cargo combines freighters and bellies and various other business units. “They manage the belly business brilliantly,” Gerber acknowledges, confirming that the different brands, Lufthansa Cargo and Swiss WorldCargo, will be kept for good.
This accounts for Vienna-based AUA as well, another member of the LH Group of airlines. However, contrasting the Swiss model, their air freight activities are entirely managed by LH Cargo as is that of the fast growing low cost carrier Eurowings on long-haul routes.
No further JV on the horizon
In the field of joining forces with other players, as done with ANA Cargo, United Cargo and Cathay Cargo, there is currently no further planning. In the case of UA the IT integration is still pending, which is the key precondition for metal neutral and seamless freight transports. The relocation of Cathay Pacific Cargo's freight handling into the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC) was concluded in 2017. Both partners transport the first joint shipments as of 1 February 2017 – initially from Hong Kong to Europe. The ability to also book eastbound shipments from Europe to Hong Kong will then follow in 2018.
“Of course, we are constantly evaluating the market for alike cooperative models but nothing concrete has emerged yet,” stated Lufthansa Cargo’s CEO.
At least in this sector, the carrier’s evolution scheme offers no news.