Liege Airport’s volume, and especially March’s, was up compared to last year. This is due to additional ad-hoc flights and some clients upgrading their schedules, even if a few flights were diverted to other airports. And, no, the latter was not caused by staff shortages in the handling companies, as some neighboring airports have alleged, says Steven Verhasselt, VP Commercial.
CFG: Has LGG gained or lost by three weeks of lockdown?
SV: “Compared to March 2019, our best year ever, last March has brought a rise of 6%. For the first quarter volume has risen by 3.7%. We do not have pre-lockdown period figures, as this is difficult to assess since there was no lockdown in 2019. Hopefully, there will not be any next year.”
CFG: Have you gained any ad-hoc traffic?
SV: “We have indeed gained some ad-hoc flights, most of them on the China-Europe leg, but other charters as well. These are served by existing customers like ASL, Qatar Cargo, Ethiopian and others. Some charter programs are carried out by newcomers to LGG, such as SF Express last week. There are also charter programs set up by freight forwarders, whether or not commissioned by official bodies or hospitals. It goes without saying that the majority is focused on medical equipment.”
CFG: Have LLG’s client airlines adapted their schedules?
SV: “Some airlines have sent more flights to LGG, some less. Now that every airport in Europe has widely opened its gates for freighter operations, lacking other traffic, some airlines have seized the opportunity. At the moment demand is extremely high at LGG and we try to focus on serving our existing clients. I admit that there are some individual differences, but I cannot pursue into the matter of who flies more and who flies less.”
CFG: What is your reaction to some rumors that some carriers have switched to other airports because of the high degree of sick leave in the LGG handling business?
SV: “Those allegations do not make sense. We are proud of all the people showing up daily to be involved in the LGG airport community. Of course, some are absent, and we asked people to stay at home as soon as specific symptoms show up. This is in line with the instructions of the Belgian authorities. The tasks of the absentees are taken over by temporary staff and people jumping in from other airports, but mostly through going the extra mile. In these precarious circumstances we achieve over 100% of what we deliver normally.”
“The reason why some airlines have decided to opt for other airports is in the special procedures for pilots in some airports and with special conditions offered by airports which - all of a sudden - seem to have rediscovered and revaluated the freighter segment. But it can most certainly not be attributed to the sick leave of our handlers. We cannot but thank all our handlers and all our staff for their commitment and hard work. Besides, this is the case for all staff at all the airports in the world and it is not limited to LGG.”
CFG: Have you noticed a rise in e-commerce volume?
SV: “As a matter of fact there is a rise in e-commerce traffic thanks to the presence of Cainiao, 4PX, Hongyuan, Richsale, ECDC and others. The e-commerce growth is mainly in the B2B niche and we see no direct influence on the B2C.”
CFG: What about the focus on China?
SV: “China is important to LGG, just like Africa, the Americas and Europe. The Chinese market this year is one of high ups and deep downs, as well as a large demand eastbound in February and westbound in March and April. Thanks to the development of our Chinese traffic and the presence of companies such as Sinotrans, Air China Cargo and others, we can react to these changing market conditions sooner than everybody else.”
Marcel Schoeters in Liege
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