Lufthansa Cargo has lately added large parts of Africa to its network, particularly destinations located on the western fringes of the continent. This rapid market penetration was mainly effected through the full integration of “Africa specialist” Brussels Airlines (SN) and their cargo division into the Lufthansa Group of Airlines. A process which had a somewhat bumpy start last fall, but meanwhile bears fruit, LH Cargo managers assured media people at a press meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya last week.
Up until September 2018, Lufthansa Cargo’s Africa network consisted of 18 routes. Meanwhile, their number went up to 33, stretching from Cairo in Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa. A stunning
“Traditionally, we weren’t very strong in West Africa but that’s a thing of the past,” said a visibly satisfied Frank Beilner, LH Cargo sales and handling chief Africa/Middle East.
The reason for his good mood and bright smile in Nairobi was not hard to guess: His responsibility almost doubled as result of the integration of Brussels Airlines’ freight division into Lufthansa Cargo’s own network. This transition that started last September added 15 new routes to Beilner’s sphere of competency. Routes such as Lomé, Kinshasa, Yaounde or Accra in Ghana, to name a few, all operated out of Brussels by SN’s fleet of A330 passenger jetliners, capable of carrying 15-plus tons per flight in their lower deck compartments.
It’s mainly flowers, fruits, fish and other perishables flying northbound, stated Thorsten Windten, LH Cargo head of sales and handling East Africa, while conversely imports into Africa consisting predominantly of consumer goods, electronics, pharmaceuticals and machinery parts.
No more bumps
Frank Beilner confessed that SN Cargo’s integration into his own company’s operations and processes proved to be a bit bumpy. However, meanwhile construction work aimed at blending the activities of both carriers is terminated, leveling out final bumps, he assured in Nairobi. “And the good news is that we not only compensated the transitional shortfall but managed to gain new customers.”
Decisive human factor
According to him, it is the comprehensive package, LH Cargo offers the market that is increasingly accepted by forwarders and shippers, consisting of their wide-span global network covering 300-plus destinations, including the routes served with passenger aircraft able to carry substantial cargo volumes in their holds, an attractive product portfolio, the operational reliability coupled with high quality and security standards. “We feel that this offering is increasingly appreciated by the African market,” Herr Beilner stated. And he mentioned another decisive factor why the integration of SN Cargo into LH Cargo caused no major turbulences: the human factor. Except for two or three managers, all former Brussels Airlines Cargo staff decided to join the new setup instead of seeking their fortunes elsewhere outside the Lufthansa cosmos. “This proved to be extremely beneficial because we managed to keep the experience and specific market knowledge in-house,” emphasized Mr Beilner. Most of the employees are based at Brussels Airport, the carrier’s home base, coordinating all BRU related cargo activities in close coordination with their LH Cargo colleagues in Frankfurt.
Feeling at home in Africa
This smooth transfer of personnel from SN to LH cannot be overstated because since its inception in 2006, Brussels Airlines concentrated their international activities on the African continent, particularly the francophone western and central African countries as a kind of natural home turf. A practice that lives on to today, following the tradition of its Belgian forerunner Sabena that ceased operations in 2001.
This Africa commitment results in a wealth of experience gained in day-to-day business, optimized over a number of years.
Lower deck capacity complements main decks
Currently, LH Cargo’s freighter network spans four African destinations: Johannesburg, Cairo, Nairobi and Dakar, all served by MD-11 freighters, capable of carrying up to 90 tons per flight.
Additional freighter routes to and from Africa do not stand on the carrier’s 2019 summer flight plan, confirms Chief Commercial Officer Dorothea von Boxberg. She adds to this that thanks to the many passenger flights Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines operate to and from Africa, complemented by the network of LH Group members Swiss and Eurowings, plenty of lower deck capacity is offered to the local market.
Four in, two out
Asked about her airline’s fleet policy she said that the rollover is in full swing, with four B777Fs joining the fleet in 2019 (2 purchased, 2 leased). Two of them will fly in LH colors, while the other two will be operated by Leipzig, Saxony-based joint venture partner AeroLogic (DHL Express / LH Cargo 50/50%) displaying their livery but marketed entirely by LH Cargo.
It was decided to phase out two of the carrier’s 12 MD-11Fs, exiting the fleet next summer and in December respectively. At the end of 2019, LH Cargo’s freighter offer will consist of eleven B777Fs (seven operated by Lufthansa Cargo, four by jv partner AeroLogic) and ten MD-11Fs. For the time being no further fleet plans are in the drawer. But LH Cargo will follow closely the market development and remain flexible, Mrs von Boxberg assured.