Russian cargo carrier, ATRAN, is connecting Shaanxi Province’s capital city Xi’an (XIY) with Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN). The first flight took off on 26OCT21, fully loaded. More traffic is to follow, the ATRAN management confirms.
For Cologne Bonn Airport, served mainly by large UPS and FedEx freighters, the Xi'an connection is by far the longest route flown by a comparatively small all-cargo aircraft – an ATRAN-operated B737-800BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter). The use of a rather small freighter on this intercontinental route illustrates how pressing the need for air transport capacity has meanwhile become.
ATRAN, a member of the Russian Volga-Dnepr Group, reacted to the demand by adding 2 B737-800F provided by Irish lessor GECAS, thus offering the market additional capacity. Each B737-800F can carry up to 23 tons per flight. The fleet adjustment is a reaction to the burgeoning e-commerce business, of which the Russian freight carrier intends to secure a share. Meanwhile, its fleet consists of 9 aircraft: 3 Boeing 737-400SF and 6 B737-800BCF.
CFG spoke with Vitaliy Andreev VA), General Director of ATRAN Airlines, about the new Cologne-Xi’an flight:
CFG: Vitaly, the B738F is built to operate medium-haul sectors. How long does the aircraft need to cover the 10,000 km long route stretching from central China to Germany?
VA: The flight XIY-CGN takes 12 hours as done in this case. Included are two stops in Krasnoyarsk and Moscow Vnukovo to refuel the aircraft. Both airports are part of our scheduled network.
CFG: Is it a one-way flight, or does the freighter return from CGN to Xi’an right after the imports are offloaded?
VA: This is a one-way flight, transporting mainly general cargo, life-saving products, and e-commerce shipments. After offloading in CGN, the freighter normally goes to VKO or KJA, subject to various factors. The capacity on the eastbound flight is sold with the assistance of our local GSA.
CFG: What role does CGN play within your international network?
VA: CGN has been kind of a European “home base” for ATRAN since 2012. Since that time, we’ve built trusted partner relations with the airport and terminal handling team. CGN is all about customer orientation. Amid the pandemic, we all experienced network and schedule disruptions prioritizing COVID-19 shipments, but we are happy to be back on track in the interests of our customers.
CFG: Regarding the upcoming winter schedule: Any operational changes or fleet adjustments planned by ATRAN?
VA: We try to support our customers with diversified solutions, thus always share our thoughts on EU hubs congestions and developments with customers. Having in mind the peak season this year, we decided to offer several EU airports to our customers, including CGN. Customers appreciate the choice we provide for charter ops.
We keep on focusing on e-Commerce traffic to Russia and Europe, which is expected to keep growing in the coming 3-5 years. That said, we are looking at further expansion and investments in B738F.
CGN has become ATRAN’s main European hub
ATRAN has been serving the Moscow-Vnukovo-Cologne-Vnukovo route for 9 years. The airline operates five weekly flights on this sector, deploying B737-400 freighters. With the import charter flights from China, ATRAN has now expanded its CGN presence further.
CGN Airport – hardly surprising – is delighted with the new flight.
“ATRAN’s decision to link Xi’an with Cologne is fully in line with our clear ambition to further boost our China-related cargo traffic. We already experience an increasing number of Chinese forwarders using Cologne/Bonn as alternative option to EU airports hit by congestion,” says Torsten Wefers, Cologne/Bonn’s director of cargo.
He indicated vaguely that additional freight carriers serving his airport are expected.
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