Munich is Germany's second-largest airport, but in terms of air cargo, with 167,000 metric tons handled, it ranked only fourth in 2021, trailing Frankfurt, Leipzig, and
“We are primarily a passenger airport offering lower deck capacity,” says cargo chief, Markus Heinelt. Yet this changed significantly during the pandemic, with frequent cargo but scarce passenger flights. A paradigm shift? Perhaps. The new trend is, at least, a hopeful sign that the airport may be favored by more freight carriers.
A wish that has apparently been heard in the executive suites of DB Schenker and Qatar Airways. Beginning on Monday (17JAN22), a B777-200F will land at MUC for the first time. “We chartered the aircraft in order to offer our customers the air freight capacity needed by them,” Mario Arnold from DB Schenker Communications told CargoForwarder Global.
DB Schenker concentrates on airports offering seamless air traffic
The aircraft will operate twice a week on the Bangalore, Doha, Munich, and Chicago Rockford route. Landing at airports such as Munich or Rockford “fits our strategy of primarily serving airports that – in contrast to the big global hubs – are not congested,” he says, explaining his company’s air transport philosophy.
It is a strategy that seems to pay off, evidenced by the figures: in 2019, for example, a total of 210 full charter flights were operated on behalf of the logistics giant. A year later, this had grown tenfold to 2100 flights, and 2021 saw a record 2,333 charter flights: the highest ever number in the company's 150-year history.
The bonanza will be documented in DB Schenker’s upcoming 2021 annual report, and is expected to continue in 2022, forecasts Mario Arnold. One contributor will be the BLR-DOH-MUC-RFD flight, he states. Its frequency could be successively upped should customer demand rise, the manager indicates.
Knocking on doors
DB Schenker's strategy of using airports that are not overcrowded is grist to Munich's mill, especially that of cargo chief, Markus Heinelt. The Hamburg native has been working at the Bavarian airport since 2003, where he is currently Director Cargo Development. Since then, he has been knocking on the doors of freight forwarders and air freight companies in southern Germany, attempting to convince them to use MUC to process their imports and exports. Initiatives that have paid off to a certain degree, as proven by Turkish Cargo, AirBridgeCargo, or the Moldavian carrier, Aerotranscargo, that all serve MUC regularly. So do the large integrators, DHL, FedEx, and UPS. DHL Express recently doubled its flights from 5 to 10 per week. At the same time, the express operator is expanding its ground capacity at Munich Airport, where an 8,000 m² distribution center is currently under construction. It will cost 70 million euros and be operational before the end of 2022.
Asked what differentiates Munich from the mega cargo hub, Frankfurt, some 400 km away, Heinelt is quick to respond: “We stand out in terms of quality, thanks to our superior ground infrastructure that enables fast turnaround times for airlines and a quick delivery to customers.”
Sometimes it is the little things that make the difference. Munich, for instance, has reallocated twelve employees from its handling subsidiary, AeroGround, to its cargo ground handler, Cargogate. Because passenger traffic plummeted, (although it is now recovering again), AeroGround staff, like many other airport employees, are currently on short-time work. Their reallocation to Cargogate, which was approved by staff union representatives, ensured those aircraft handlers full employment. Thanks to this step, constant flows of goods could also be secured during peak times. “What counts, is the entire package we offer the market: from trucking to the fast handling of shipments, customs clearance, security checks, many global flight connections, and the excellent accessibility of the cargo buildings on airport,” Mr. Heinelt reasons.
40% is a strong statement
And there is another argument in favor of MUC:
For example, 40% of all air freight generated in Germany, comes from producers based in the south and southwest of the country. As trucking over long distances is increasingly viewed critically by politicians and the general public due to rising fuel costs and, above all, high greenhouse gas emissions, a paradigm shift is emerging. It is better to truck consignments to a nearby airport that offers a global flight network, than to transport them by road across Europe to a distant airport.
The pressure on suppliers is increasing, and the opportunities for Munich to be chosen as a destination by additional all-cargo carriers, are quite advantageous. The ecological issue is an irrefutable argument that plays into Markus Heinelt's cards when talking to the industry about their cargo flows.
This is shown by the following testimonials:
Johannes Zinkl, Senior Director Lufthansa Cargo Hub Munich:
“I already knew Markus Heinelt from my time as regional manager in South America. In 2006, we had the first flight from Sao Paulo to MUC, and Markus was extremely supportive in setting up the processes for our main commodities at that time: fruits and meat.
This passion to always achieve the optimum for air freight destined to MUC or shipped from there, while safeguarding the interests of all parties involved, still impresses me in my current role as hub manager in MUC.
Markus Heinelt always has an open ear for our needs, and supports us in implementing solutions best as can be, whether in day-to-day business or in strategic projects. This very successful cooperation with MUC will help Lufthansa Cargo to really take off again in the next few months after the Corona crisis is (hopefully) over, enabling a strong comeback of MUC offering passengers and the cargo industry a global network.”
Sabine Lehmann, Managing Director of the LBS - Bavarian Freight Forwarders Association:
“Freight forwarders, logistics companies, and airports, all have the same goal in terms of a high-performing transport chain, but sometimes have diverging ideas about how to achieve this aim. It is thanks to Markus Heinelt that, when it comes to issues concerning supply chain topics and Munich's role as a global hub, he always came up with forward driving solutions and never compromises on quality, safety, or process integrity.
When discussing with him or in daily practice, it immediately becomes clear that he knows the freight forwarding business inside out from his own experience. His Hanseatic straightforwardness is a useful complement to the Bavarian “let's see what happens” attitude when it comes to defining constructive solutions. In air transportation things don't always happen as written in a textbook.”
Ingo Zimmer, CEO ATC Aviation Services AG:
“Our many years of trusting cooperation with Munich Airport - and especially with Mr. Markus Heinelt, are based on mutual appreciation, trust, and good communication.
Mr. Heinelt is a competent partner for us, whose profound competence, market knowledge, and professionalism are simply outstanding.
It is with great pleasure that we look forward to continuing and expanding common projects in the air cargo business.”
Munich announced new cargo flights operated by Air China. The first Boeing 777 freighter landed on 24JAN22 at the Bavarian hub. From now on, Air China Cargo will connect Beijing and Munich 6
times a week, offering the market 600+ tons maindeck capacity. Mainly, material from the automotive industry, among other commodities, will be transported on this route. The new flight is the
first regular cargo connection to be operated nonstop between Munich and the Chinese capital.
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