AirBridgeCargo decided to concentrate its European air traffic in Liege, coupled with running a large warehouse for fast and efficient throughput and handling services. The facility, a
cornerstone in ABC’s EU strategy, went online 1 September, following tests lasting several months.
Next, the number of freighter services will be more than doubled step by step from currently 15 weekly flights to between 30 to 35 per week. Operated are both B747-400Fs and -8Fs on sectors between China and Belgium with a stopover in Moscow.
Probably only insiders can estimate how much work it takes until a newly built cargo warehouse is completed, equipped with latest technology, and operated by ground staff who know how to do their
handling job once the first containers and pallets arrive.
Without an experienced mastermind sitting in the driver’s seat and pushing the project forward, it could end in chaos. In the case of ABC’s Liege plans, this mastermind was and still is Diana Schoeneich, Senior Director European Region at AirBridgeCargo Airlines, managing and coordinating all activities. “Liege is my baby,” she gets to the point, illustrating her commitment.
WFS is awarded the ABC handling contract
It all started in October 2018, when ABC decided to bundle its European traffic in Liege, Belgium. Following the announcement, the operational framework needed to be set up. Of central importance for its future success was the decision to operate a large warehouse offering suitable layouts for different products. “After signing a rental contract for cargo terminal B24, a 12,500 m² facility built by the airport, we asked different ground handling agents to compile individual concepts for equipping and running the facility, and to present their solutions for handling imports, exports and transits according to best standards,” Mrs. Schoeneich states.
Finally, WFS was awarded the contract following a tender “due to its global presence and existing handling agreements with ABC at some other airports.”
Consequences of the pro LGG decision
So, the question is: in what way will ABC’s decision in favor of Liege as its future EU Hub, complemented by the opening of a dedicated warehouse at the Walloon airport, impact the existing services to FRA and AMS?
Here is Diana Schoeneich’s response:
“We have sound business relations with FRA as well as with AMS. Both airports are of high value for AirBridgeCargo, offering long-standing sustainable services of high quality.
Nevertheless, it´s not a secret that we as a Group of full freighter airlines have to deal with some limitations at both Airports, such as the operational limitations at FRA due to their night flight ban coupled with their passenger driven business model, whereas in AMS freighter operators such as ABC are faced with ongoing slot discussions.
We intend to continue serving both airports, however our cooperation will also depend on the airports’ future development plans in terms of cargo operators and their readiness to compete against more favourable conditions offered by some smaller, but more cargo-friendly airports, such as Liege for instance.
Besides, smaller airports are more oriented on specialty cargo traffic, attracting dedicated freight forwarders, building cargo facilities, and favouring a more collaborative approach towards further development. Volga-Dnepr is aiming at network expansion in the most effective manner looking at more cargo-friendly airports that are ready to guarantee priority for cargo shipments.
We highly appreciate current approaches in FRA and AMS to the Air Cargo Community and the cargo driven part of their business, but expectations are high. We are available to discuss and develop even a better air cargo set-up to look ahead into a mutual successful future if the local requirements suit our needs.”
Here comes the broader picture
Next, we asked Diana Schoeneich about the future of ABC’s European network after centralizing the cargo flights at the carrier’s new EU hub Liege. This is what the Senior Director European Region said:
“The future of our traditional cargo gateways in the new normal is still an open question. Fact is that major airports will continue playing an important role in the European cargo ecosystem. However, we estimate that Liege’s role as cargo gateway will increase and become more important as LGG aims to embrace not only comprehensive airport developments but also to focus on the handling of special cargo. From our side, we aim to offer very tailor-made solutions and premium products to our customers, providing a dedicated combination of air- and ground handling services with customized processes and equipment.
Nevertheless, we do not want to limit ourselves only to Liege, as customers are looking for flexibility and good coverage of target locations, which we will continue serving and offer to the market.”
ABC has rented the cargo terminal at Liege for a 10-year period of time. The facility is going to be equipped with different cool zones for handling pharma and other temp sensitive goods. A strong room for valuables does not exist yet but stands on WFS’ to do list.
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