Cologne/Bonn Airport (CGN) recently published impressive cargo figures for the year 2020. Despite the plummeting passenger numbers due to the pandemic, 2020 saw an above average 6%
increase overall in tonnage, with CGN handling a total of 863,000 tons of freight. “During the coronavirus crisis, it has become particularly clear that Cologne/Bonn Airport plays a prominent
role in the provision of supplies to people and companies in the region. Whether it's medical goods, replacement parts for industry, or vaccines – Cologne/Bonn is the central logistics site for
all kinds of products,” Johan Vanneste, President & CEO of Cologne/Bonn Airport, stated in the press release, alluding to continued cargo success in 2021.
CFG spoke to Torsten Wefers (TW), Director Cargo at Cologne/Bonn Airport, to get a greater insight on developments.
CFG: Impressive results in 2020! A 6% increase to previous year and a total 863,000 tons handled that year, despite the loss of so much belly capacity through the grounding of passenger
flights. Your press release points out that “the increase in tonnage during the coronavirus crisis was on average 13%-points above the average for the German market” and that DEC20 even
saw a record high of 87,000 tons handled at CGN: over 10% of your final, annual result. Tell us, Torsten Wefers, what was the greatest challenge for CGN cargo last year?
TW: There were a number of operational challenges such as the fast-increasing freighter traffic in CGN, and the introduction of passenger freighters with full loose loads in the cabin, often on very short notice or, in some cases, without even a pre-alert. Based on our full 24/7 flexibility, dedicated cargo sales & ops, additional staff and GSE resources, and the fantastic local teamwork of all involved parties, we smoothly solved these topics.
CFG: Did anything come about more quickly because of the pandemic?
TW: One of our integrator-customers opened an additional warehouse sooner than planned, based on its heavily increasing volumes. Furthermore, a new 2nd line warehouse was opened in October, and will be already extended as of February, adding handling space for an additional 50,000 tons annually.
CFG: How has 2021 started for CGN airport?
TW: The first weeks of January again brought high levels of cargo traffic, continuing CGN's very positive cargo development, and exceeding the previous year results. Both commodities ecommerce and pharma are the main driver.
CFG: What does CGN hope to achieve this year?
TW: For 2021, we again forecasted further growing cargo traffic numbers; e-commerce and express cargo volumes will remain the main driver of this development. However, it is too early to give any concrete figures as we are also in discussions with various – existing and new – customers about possible business developments in CGN. Further to this, a number of operational digitalization projects have been initiated with the goal of further increasing CGN's already good operational performance. Last but not least, additional landside handling capacities will be developed, further supporting the continuous development of both our express cargo/e-commerce and general cargo traffic.
CFG: In what way have the pandemic and Brexit had an effect on the positioning of CGN in the list of European airports, in your view?
TW: Being a freighter-dominated and cargo-focused airport, CGN has not been negatively affected, cargo-wise. Quite the contrary: we even see many positive developments. Intra-EU e-commerce traffic is one of our main growth drivers and, given CGN’s location and cargo market, there is a very high demand for regular and ad-hoc freighter capacities to/from UK.
CFG: What newcomers have you been able to welcome to the airport?
TW: Especially the rapid development of CGN's (ad-hoc) charter traffic brought us a number of new entries such as CargoLogic Germany, Cargolux, Emirates Sky Cargo, and National Airlines. Further to this, we welcomed many new passenger freighter operators in CGN. Overall, more than 40 cargo airlines operated via CGN in 2020.
CFG: Were most charters operated at night or during daytime?
TW: The vast majority operated during daytime. CGN's newly launched "freighterfriendly" initiative [in OCT20, bg], which also includes a dedicated development program, is supporting the further growth of daytime cargo traffic in CGN.
CFG: Do you expect any lasting redistribution of charter traffic benefitting CGN to the detriment of nearby competitors – say – Hahn / Maastricht?
TW: Based on the aforementioned initiative, a full flexible 24/7 operation, handling services, and customs, the step-by-step increase of the CGN cargo handling capacities, and the continuous strengthening of the airport's cargo sales & operations team, we will further strengthen our market position as an emerging European charter airport. But, at the end, the market has to decide if charter traffic will be moved away from other airports to Cologne/Bonn.
Thank you, Torsten Wefers! We look forward to following your success this year and beyond.
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