That’s the ambitious growth plan of newcomer CMA CGM Air Cargo, the air freight division of shipping line CMA CGM. Becoming a household name in the cargo industry is the French company’s next big goal following the successful integration of CEVA Logistics.
Currently CMA CGM Air Cargo’s fleet consists of 2 A330-200F, with 2 additional units coming soon. More freighters will follow, with greater range, enabling long distance flights between the Far East, the U.S. and Europe, indicates Adrien Thominet, CEO of Paris-based ECS in this exclusive. His company markets the capacity of the freighter fleet.
CFG: Adrien, CMA CGM Air Cargo launched its first freighter flight on 13MAR21, connecting Liège with Chicago. More transatlantic services have followed. How has the cooperation between ECS and CMA CGM Air Cargo developed during the first 9 weeks, including the volumes flown on behalf of ECS since day one?
A.T.: The cooperation couldn’t be better, and the capacity of the aircraft is jam-packed since day 2, in both directions. CMA CGM Air Cargo has been very positively welcomed by all the industry and it is focusing on providing the best possible service level.
CFG: Newcomer CMA CGM Air Cargo has just announced a major network extension, adding Dubai, Istanbul, and Beirut to its itinerary. Does this translate into 50% more business for ECS since your company markets the capacity of the shipping line’s A330-200 freighters?
A.T.: Indeed, we are doubling our capacity offering. The carrier started with 2 freighter aircraft that were deployed on routes connecting Liège with destinations in the U.S. (ORD and JFK/ATL). With 2 additional A330Fs added to the fleet, the aim is to expand the network by servicing the Middle East and offering attractive air connectivity between the U.S., EU, and the ME as of JUN21.
CFG: Speaking of the new destinations Dubai, Beirut, and Istanbul: Which GSAs will sell the capacity of the freighters on the return flights to Liège or transits to the U.S.?
A.T.: Our local ECS offices or our Group member Globe Air in the Middle East and the USA are responsible for the entire sales activities. It is therefore a seamless service that we offer the market.
CFG: Are further destinations standing on CMA CGM Air Cargo’s list of destinations to be serviced soon, and do you expect the shipping line to enlarge the freighter fleet motivated by the successful start?
A.T.: As said, beginning in JUN21, it will open LGG/BEY/IST twice a week; simultaneously, the 4th freighter aircraft will join the fleet. Future projects are not confirmed yet but serving routes to Asia are the most likely option, although no decision has been taken at this point in time.
CFG: Has the French shipping line set a precedent by operating cargo aircraft, motivating maritime competitors to follow suit?
A.T.: Its approach is indeed fresh and innovative as, beside the classic air freight activity, it really is convinced that developing suitable multimodal solutions is a good idea. Its maritime success is also a driver of this project as most shippers belonging to its customers require air freight solutions as well. By offering the market smart sea/air transport options at multimodal gateways, CMA CGM Air Cargo’s management strongly believes that combining both services makes a lot of sense. I am sure that the carrier will further step up its activities.
Coming back to your question: I don’t want to comment on the strategy of other companies. However, as far as CMA CGM Air Cargo is concerned, I know that the people behind the carrier have the will and the right tools to push the above-mentioned approach consequently forward.
Statement CMA CGM Air Cargo:
We asked Xavier Eiglier, Executive Vice President CMA CGM Air Cargo, to deliver a comment concerning the new routes. This is what the manager said: “With the introduction of these three new destinations, CMA CGM Air Cargo will be able to offer a broader range of services to meet our customers’ needs.
Strategically located at the crossroads between several continents, these new destinations will help speed up CMA CGM Air Cargo’s development. As we demonstrated recently by shipping humanitarian relief from France to India, CMA CGM Air Cargo enables the Group to deliver even more agile, full-service solutions to meet the most urgent needs.”
Back to ECS and Adrien Thominet:
CFG: Speaking of your company’s business: How hard has ECS been hit by the massive loss of belly capacity following the outbreak of Covid-19 and the sharp reduction in passenger traffic?
A.T.: Of course, we have suffered from the loss of the passenger capacity since Covid began spreading, but I am proud to say that ECS had the capacity to immediately react thanks to the different skills that we had built inhouse. For example, right from the start of the pandemic in MAR20, we started using the grounded fleets of our Total Cargo Management (TCM) partners TUI and Condor as chartered ‘preighter’ flights. If I’m not mistaken, we were the first company to do this. Thus, we quickly offered much sought-after capacity to the market to transport health care items, face masks, or hygiene articles from producers in the Far East to consignees based in the Americas, Europe, or in Asia. In the end, we were able to develop tailored transport solutions in close coordination with more than 20 of our top mandate airlines.
This initiative was strongly supported by two additional pillars: one is our dedicated company Globe Air Cargo base in Germany, that managed all safety and security tasks, supervised all charter ops, took care of equipment and customs issues, to name just a few of the challenges it had to manage day after day.
Next to mention is our digital infrastructure that was paramount for securing constant data flows including track and trace updates, coordinating sales activities, providing revenue management information, and enabling on-time visibility of shipment flows and market needs. By providing fresh updates and on-time visibility on the market needs, we succeeded in creating lucrative business options for our partners.
To wrap up: Despite the many challenging issues we were facing, including the protection of our own staff from being infected, we were extremely creative in finding suitable solutions fitting the needs of our customers. In short: We just did our job according to our own ethics and in a leverage manner.
CFG: Adrien, thx for the interview.
Interview: Heiner Siegmund
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