There have been a few rumours flying around the past weeks regarding various parts of the Volga-Dnepr Group’s present and future activities. Subjects such as whether CargoLogic Germany (see separate report) will be granted their German AOC, or if Volga-Dnepr Airlines may face problems operating their AN-124 fleet due to Ukrainian protests on maintenance records. All hot air it seems, as Volga-Dnepr Airlines looks at further expansion.
Leipzig base targeted for further growth
During the past few days both the Middle-German Airports Group of which Leipzig is a member and the Volga-Dnepr Group made it known that they will enter into a so-called Strategic Partnership at Germany’s Leipzig Airport. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for this new deal was signed last week at the International Paris Air Show, held in Le Bourget. It is reported in www.airliners.de that the agreement was given added weight with the attendance of the Minister for Finance of the Germany State of Saxony, Matthias Hass being at the signing ceremony.
The new agreement is said to cover a number of different operational areas at Leipzig Airport. These, however, have not yet been elaborated on.
Volga-Dnepr which is mainly known as the largest operator of the Antonov AN-124 freighter is no stranger to Leipzig. They can look back on a long history at LEJ, having originally positioned themselves there back in 2006, when they first stationed their AN-124s at the airport. These were mainly used to support NATO’s transport logistics to different areas around the globe. It was in late 2013 that VD’s daughter company, Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Service (AMTES), set up an MRO base in Leipzig and took a long-term lease on a maintenance hangar there. AirBridgeCargo Airlines also operates line flights out of the airport as well.
Leipzig Airport was in the past better known as the large hub for DHL which over the past decade has invested heavily in their distribution infrastructure there as well as operating dozens of feeder flights into and out of the airport.
The LEJ Board of Directors has given the green light for a further 500-million-euro investment in expanding air cargo handling facilities at the airport. This, it seems has been decided in order to convince Volga-Dnepr to operate more flights out of Leipzig with their long-haul freighter daughter, AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC).
It is estimated that ABC already operates up to twenty B747F flights through Leipzig. The plan is to expand these to 50 weekly flights between 2021 and 2030.
A heavy investment plan from the State of Saxony who also aim to offer a further 500 new jobs in LEJ as a result. This would mean Leipzig would be firmly in the hands of both DHL and the Volga-Dnepr Group.
The above is interesting considering that the agreement reached between Liege Airport and Volga-Dnepr Group last summer which noted the VD Group as a strategic partner for Liege, has been reinforced, according to a release issued by VD on June 20th.
Dual hub system in Europe – will it work?
The new MoU signed by Liege Airport and the Volga-Dnepr Group states that the cooperation agreement signed last year for the set-up of a regional hub in Liege is now being reinforced whereby the deal gets the full support (financial?) of the Walloon government who “will advise the partners on the successful development of the project and cover talent acquisition,” among other issues.
The VD group plans up to thirty weekly flights through Liege by the end of 2020. Furthermore, ground and cargo handling operations are to be revamped in order to bring more effective operating modus. All of this is to be geared towards e-commerce and express shipment handling.
Andrey Andreev, Vice President for Europe at ABC stated; “we are moving one step further in creating an effective system of regional hubs network to meet the emerging demands of our customers worldwide.”
Is this a signal that ABC will gradually move away from more costly airports such as FRA and AMS in favour of airports such as LEJ and LGG?
John Mc Donagh