CargoForwarder Global reported exclusively on October 15th that the Volga-Dnepr Group was rumored to be having severe financial problems. This was not confirmed by the company, despite
the fact that other publications followed our report with further information which in turn was to a large part also not confirmed or commented on by Volga-Dnepr managers.
Last week it seems that Volga-Dnepr did apparently confirm some changes.
VD staff cuts and AN-124s in storage
The Russian Aviation Insider reported mid-last week that “due to the difficult market situation“ Volga-Dnepr Airlines is definitely planning to get rid of up to 100 of their 1,500 staff members and also that the carrier’s fleet of 8 units out of formerly twelve aircraft, will be further reduced to six units by placing two of the large freighters in storage. Quite a blow for Volga-Dnepr which made a name for itself as the world’s largest operator of the giant AN-124 aircraft fleet. If the above plan comes into effect then Ukraine-based Antonov Airlines will take over the lead position as AN-124 operator.
Whether the global turndown in trade has affected the transport of heavy cargo such as gas turbines and other items so much that Volga-Dnepr has to put aircraft in storage, remains to be seen. The carrier still has a lucrative contract with Boeing to transport very large aircraft engines within the USA which are needed at Boeing’s various production plants. They also have a license from the U.S. department of Transport (DOT) for up to ten charter flights between now and the end of November. These are said to be on behalf of GE Aviation.
Since the famous SALIS military contract for NATO became null and void, the Russian carrier has put its cards on trying to generate more commercial contracts. This, it seems, has not turned out to their expectations and therefore that’s the main reason why further AN-124s have to stand idle.
CargoLogicAir looking at other types
Contrary to previous reports that both UK-based CargoLogicAir (CLA) and Moscow-based AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) are also looking at reducing staff and aircraft. It has been noted that CLA is looking at bringing in other freighter aircraft than the B747F already in their fleet. In a financial release they state that: “the airline is actively working with partners to mitigate (the problems arising from a constrained market for B747s) and may also assess the merits of other aircraft types in the future.“
This, apparently because CLA has been trying to get access to second-hand 747 freighters, so far without luck. They operate five B747-400Fs as well as a solitary B747-8F.
It’s hard to believe that CLA want to add more capacity seeing as they continue to make losses. In 2018 the loss was reported as being in the region of around 20 million euros - and who knows how they stand at the moment!
AirBridgeCargo (as reported) is not having an easy time either, but is said to be sticking to their plans of taking 29 of Boeing’s 777 freighters in the future with the first three to be delivered in Q1, 2020.
The same it seems also applies to CargoLogic Germany. Here it is said that there are so far no commercial flights happening.
A total B747F phase out in favour of the more fuel efficient B777F?
The Volga-Dnepr Group are not the only aircraft operators which have been affected by the global trade misery. One can only hope things get back to normal sometime soon so that VD, ABC, and CLA get their feet back on the ground.
John Mc Donagh
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