Following the suspension of AirBridgeCargo (ABC) flights as a result of Western sanctions, the traffic gap is starting to negatively affect those European airports that were hitherto
heavily frequented by ABC. They report revenue shortfalls in take-off and landing fees, and ground handling companies, too, have lost part of their business. This situation will presumably
continue for quite some time, as replacements for the missing ABC freighters are not in sight in the short term.
For 2021, Liege Airport reported 921 rotations of ABC freighters, including AN-124 flights on behalf of its Russian parent, Volga-Dnepr. Added to this, the operations of the Group’s regional freight carrier, ATRA Airlines. All three accounted for roughly 7% of the total tonnage loaded or unloaded at the Walloon airport. In bold figures, this amounts to 94,000 tons, which corresponds to 90% of the air freight carried by Russian airlines at LGG.
LGG, FRA, MUC, are all suffering
Similarly in Frankfurt: Until the Group’s grounding, ABC and Volga-Dnepr operated 20 flights a week on average to/from Rhine-Main Airport. This corresponds to around 1,500 tons of capacity per week that are now missing - and that have not yet been adequately replaced. Munich had been in the midst of preparations for additional ABC frequencies - up to 5 flights per week had been planned. Since Putin’s attack on Ukraine on 24FEB22, and the subsequent harsh western sanctions, this project has also ended up in the garbage can.
But back to Liege: With the Russian airline group gone, Liege has begun bleeding, financially. Cash influx from the rental of a warehouse located within Liege Airport’s Business Park - LABP (facility B24) belongs to the past. Income from landing and parking fees and fuel supplies have dropped to zero.
Impact on revenues
Particularly the absence of landing fees is damaging Liege Airport. According to list price, the airport demands that airlines pay €9.31 per metric ton of maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of an aircraft. In the case of a B747-400 freighter, such as operated by ABC, this adds up to about €3,700 per flight. Even costlier is the takeoff of the slightly larger B747-8F, which channels roughly €4,100 into LGG’s coffers. In view of 921 rotations in 2021, this is a lot of money that LGG now has to do without. Even when considering that “reductions could be granted annually with a maximum of 25% according to minimum scheduled flights and/or the type of performed operations,” as the airport says. It can be assumed that this clause applies to big customers such as the Volga-Dnepr Group of airlines.
The 12 ABC staff based at Liege are directly affected by the operational stop. The airport itself reports no job losses, confirms Head of Communications, Christian Delcourt.
Can the capacity gap be closed?
In the case of LGG, the banning of the Volga-Dnepr Group from western skies is the second loss of a major client within 2 years. Earlier, integrator FedEx began moving part of its operations from Liege to its central European hub, Paris CDG. According to reports, the U.S. package delivery company was upset that LGG had rolled out the red carpet for Cainiao, the logistics arm of the Chinese Alibaba Group. Meanwhile, Cainiao operates a 30,000 m² warehouse at LGG and frequently lands there.
Could Cainiao and other international capacity providers compensate for the ABC capacity loss at least on sectors connecting the Far East and Europe? Hard to imagine, but not impossible, says LGG’s Mr. Delcourt: “Many airlines serving Liege Airport or customers of our airport are in the running to replace AirBridgeCargo. The arrival of other operators could partially compensate for the absence of ABC.”
We welcome and publish comments from all authenticated users.