CargoForwarder Global has been informed that ABC is actively study-ing the possibility of setting up a secondary hub in Central Europe next to their main one in Moscow, bundling the carrier’s European traf-fic there. The project has been confirmed by their Moscow headquar-ters.
Volga-Dnepr Group member AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) has in the last one-and-a-half decades grown into one of the world’s most successful all-cargo carriers, operating with a fleet of eighteen
Boeing 747Fs (11 B747-8Fs, 4 B747-400ERFs, and 3 B747-400Fs) to destinations across the globe, complemented by feeder services conducted by their subsidiary Atran Cargo Airlines. In the meantime
almost 40 cities are standing on ABC’s route map, many of them located in Europe.
Space gets tight at most airports
Earlier this week, CFG was informed confidentially by various credible sources that the Moscow-based management have sent out a request to the thirteen airports they regularly serve in Europe to look at and report on the possibility of being able to offer AirBridgeCargo Airlines a long-term secondary hub at their locations. This, if it were to come about, would mean that ABC would then eventually operate most or all of their European flights through the one hub while trucking most goods from there all across Europe to their final destinations.
Market experts told CFG, this is a very wise move if it were to come to fruition. ABC’s problem is that many of the European airports they serve are becoming totally congested and put their product at risk if the quality level and stability of operations were to drop.
ABC’s management gives CFG a clear statement
After being informed about their intended single European hub project, CargoForwarder Global asked ABC’s management to comment on the subject.
The following statement was issued to us on February 14th.
“Following our telephone conversation, please find the statement on behalf of AirBridgeCargo Airlines regarding the subject discussed.
The idea to launch an ABC secondary hub in Europe is not a new one. In 2017 we witnessed a number of situations with major cargo hubs, which revealed the scale of problems related to airport congestions, constraints, prioritizing in favor of passenger business, etc. We started looking for alternative solutions, partnership development with cargo friendly airports which are ready to support our ambitious plans. However, despite their proactive customer-focused approach and strong willingness to cooperate with ABC, when we started talking about increase of volumes to these airports, we come to the joint conclusion that the existing airport infrastructure and qualified manpower is not sufficient for smooth operations of a big freighter operator. At the moment AirBridgeCargo is set to make assessment of real and potential possibilities of different European airports in order to make an inventory of airport’s capacity, different facilities including ground handling sites, etc. Given our strategy for expansion and improvement service quality for special cargoes it is of vital importance for ABC to find partners with a high level of handling services, extensive operational opportunities including for all types of special cargo and well-developed ground and airport infrastructure."
The above information was kindly provided by ABC’s General Director, Sergey Lazarev.
A dedicated airport - the only solution?
The above statement is pretty clear - ABC intends to protect their business for the future and gear itself towards upcoming market changes. It is no secret that many airports, including those in Europe, have been facing problems during the past year as far as handling of the enormous volumes of air cargo passing through their doors. Some have been faced with almost total blockages at warehouse doors, on the ramp and also what it seems is the lack of qualified and dedicated staff in the warehouses to surmount the problems.
This problem is not getting better and is being compounded by the ever increasing volume of e-commerce shipments, pharmaceuticals and temperature-sensitive products being moved by air alongside the so called general cargo.
So, indeed a wise move by ABC, say market observers, to start looking seriously at the possibility of a secondary hub in Europe which could handle all.
But where is it?
The above statement clearly shows that ABC has done their homework well in seeing if one or the other present locations they fly to could be the answer. It seems not!
Many airports are still looking too much at the passenger business.
There, it seems, is almost always room for expansion. But not so for cargo. We have broached this subject in previous reports highlighting the dangers of ignoring the increase of cargo volumes and the lack of facilities and well trained and well paid staff.
But, if some airports can fall over themselves to accommodate integrators by allocating huge areas for small parcels sorting and apron space for aircraft - then why not for one of the world’s largest cargo carriers which needs to have the same in order to protect future business.
What would ABC need?
By taking just a rough look at their present European schedule one can see that they surely must have between 30 - 35 scheduled B747F operations per week in Europe. A rough calculation would show that at high load factor levels (120t/flight), this would mean between 3,500 – 4,200 tons per week. Going lower, this figure would still be around the 3,000 tons mark each week. There’s no way that any of today’s European cargo hubs can handle that amount of air cargo on top of what they presently have.
Where then, is the airport which is willing and in the position to create a new dedicated cargo hub for AirBridgeCargo. The carrier has fairly put the question out to their present airport partners. But, will one of them come up with the necessary funding, space allocation, infrastructure and road feeder structure which can allow ABC to continue on their present road and expand into future market developments.
Serious investors are needed, planning experts who know the job and warehouse and ramp facilities which can cater for future growth. Presumably only airports qualify that –among others – offer a dual runway system, 24/7 ops, sufficient real estate for future expansion and a warehouse setup which is tailored exclusively to ABC’s needs. Geographically speaking, one could assume that only airports which are central European located come into question in order to assure a direct and speedy road feeder service.
A hard nut to crack - but maybe those who have space might want to look at the recent reports in the U.S. press whereby Philadelphia Airport has acquired a 14 acre site right next to the airport for only US$ 54 million and plans to turn it into a dedicated cargo area.
Munich, Leipzig, Cologne, Hahn, Liege, Amsterdam and all others - the ball is now in your court.
John Mc Donagh / Heiner Siegmund