The air freight market is in the doldrums, general cargo tonnages continue to fall, rates are nowhere near stable and carriers are getting even more nervous about yields which according
to latest statistics have fallen even further.
All the more reason for carriers to reconsider their cargo operations. Something which Moscow-based AirBridgeCargo Airlines seems now to be forced into.
Clients informed on route cutbacks
Last week the carrier’s customers received a “To Whom it May Concern” notification from ABC’s Commercial Director, Alexey Zotov stating that “We optimized our flight schedule to allow us to improve our service quality to suit your individual needs.”
The result of this ‘optimization’ is that a total of eleven direct routings have been cancelled on short notice (as of 1. November) and that a further three sectors have been rerouted.
The flight cancellations from EU airports are a mixture of AirBridgeCargo (RU) services and CargoLogicAir (P3) flights which were until now operating out of Frankfurt, Munich, Leipzig, Paris and Liege.
Four CargoLogicAir flights from FRA-ORD, FRA-ATL, FRA-ATL-ORD and FRA-OSL are dropped along with two of ABC’s FRA-ORD and LGG-SVO and one MUC-SVO operation.
The company also announced that three ABC and one CLA operation from their Moscow Sheremetyevo hub are also out. These are SVO-PVG-DAC, SVO-NRT-ICN, SVO-PEK and SVO-HKG.
Service optimization or ripcord pulling?
It seems that Munich and Paris also get their share of bad news as the MUC-SVO flight now reroutes as LAX-FRA-SVO and two AMS-MUC-SVO rotations are being replaced as direct AMS-SVO. The Paris stop on the LEJ-CDG-SVO route is being dropped in favour of a direct LEJ-SVO service.
Whether the above cancellations and re-routings are simply a service optimization for customers, is a matter of opinion. One which many will not share at all.
Fact is that it’s no secret that ABC and CLA have also been hard hit with the downturn in cargo tonnages and that it was only a matter of time before they also had to cut back on services.
It would maybe have been better that the men at the top had described the move as such and not disguise behind service optimization for clients.
A couple of questions remain
AirBridgeCargo, CargoLogicAir and Volga-Dnepr, all part of the same family, have made a name for themselves over the past few years as growing and reliable freight carriers. No wonder that especially they have been hard hit by the present downturn.
But, what happens in the future?
Does this mean that staff cuts in Europe, especially in Frankfurt and Amsterdam are now inevitable? This would become more apparent if further AMS or FRA flights were to disappear from the scene.
And - the planned hubs in Liege and Leipzig - will planning be put on ice or even abandoned in one or the other location?
Last, but not least - the fleet.
ABC still has a firm order with Boeing for twenty-nine B777Fs, the first three of which are planned for delivery in March and April of next year. Will they be deferred, will B747Fs go into the desert - or will ABC seriously have to consider a radical fleet downsize.
Hopefully not! - as the carrier has not created the crisis themselves but is probably one of those airlines who if it continues, will suffer most. That would be a great pity considering what they have built up over the past years.
John Mc Donagh
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