Looking back over the past 2 years, Korean Air Cargo managed to almost double its tonnage flown into and out of Vienna Airport: a staggering 40% in those pandemic years, and the upward trend is still ongoing. The airline has firmly settled on Vienna Airport as its hub for central and eastern European traffic. What makes Vienna Airport so attractive for Korean Air Cargo? CFG wanted to know and asked Michael Zach, Vice President Sales & Finance, Ground Handling & Cargo Operations at Vienna International Airport, to elaborate.
The relationship between Korean Air Cargo and Vienna Airport, dates back to the first passenger flight on 03JUN90, with the first B747-400 freighter landing there on 21MAR04, Michael Zach tells
CFG. He goes on to share that B777 freighter operations along with newer B747-800F joined the airline’s B747-400F Vienna-destined fleet from February 2012 onwards. Meanwhile, Korean Air Cargo has
become the airport’s main cargo carrier, having ranked first place for flown cargo in 2021, and second place in terms of cargo flown plus trucking.
The actual figures
That first place translates into more than 39,800 tons transported in 2021, compared to over 39,400 tons of cargo in 2020, and a huge leap up from 27,700 tons in 2019. Over the years, this has accumulated to a total of over 535,400 tons of cargo to and from Vienna Airport. Korean Air Cargo service offer to the Austrian capital has grown to up to 13 flights per week, rendering it the airline's busiest airport in Europe, with no signs of slowing down. And Vienna Airport is its main logistics hub for the European continent “For the future, we firmly anticipate a further increase in the tonnages demanded between Seoul-Incheon and Europe. The already very good development proves that we have chosen an ideal airport and transshipment point for Central and Southeast Europe for this purpose. Despite the Corona crisis and without any capacity bottlenecks or disruptions, we were able to reliably achieve record tonnages at Vienna Airport,” Park Joonseok, Regional Cargo Manager Austria, Eastern Europe at Korean Air Cargo, confirms. Though the statistics for 2022 have not been shared, the airline revealed that it experienced steadily increasing growth rates in the first five months of this year.
What is it that is being transported, and what’s the balance?
“About 75% are imports and 25% exports,” Michael Zach explains. These are “mainly goods for the automotive and electronics sector, as well as machine parts and pharmaceutical products.” Commodities that are increasingly turning to air cargo, given the ongoing and newer obstacles supply chains are facing. “The airspace closures over Russia, or the blockages in front of the Chinese seaports, have increased the demand for reliable capacity, especially between Asia and Europe. We are therefore pleased to have a long-standing and strong partner in Korean Air Cargo, with whom we can offer this together thanks to our excellent logistics infrastructure as well as ideal location in Central and Eastern Europe," he says.
What is it that makes Vienna Airport so attractive for Korean Air Cargo?
“Korean Air Cargo also serves Budapest (BUD) with freighters since 21FEB20. That airport offers a similar, actually even closer network within Eastern Europe. So, what distinguishes Vienna in comparison, that it has become the airport most served by Korean Air Cargo?” CFG wants to know. “We focus on our own strengths,” he answers, listing fast turnaround times in warehousing and data interconnection with freight forwarders; fast, secure customs processes in cooperation with the authorities; high handling quality – emphasizing that all ramp and cargo processes are carried out by one source; and experienced and qualified personnel. “The good cargo figures and satisfied customers confirm our chosen path,” he concludes, going on to point out that Vienna is also the logistics hub for many large Korean companies. “Vienna Airport is one of the fastest hubs for Korean Air in terms of break down. In addition, Vienna offers a much faster connection time than many other airports. Korean Air Cargo’s operations have grown steadily since 2004. The cooperation with the RFS partners has also been built up over many years and is constantly being perfected.” Given its geographical location, trucks leaving Vienna can reach 23 nearby countries within 36 hours.
“Without disruption”? How?
“Park Jeonsook stated that Korean Air Cargo managed its growth at Vienna Airport ‘despite the Corona crisis and without any capacity bottlenecks or disruptions’. Are there any BDPs what you can share that resulted in being able to avoid disruption? Many other airports experienced handling staff shortages - didn't VIE?” CFG is intrigued. “There is a close partnership and constant exchange with Korean Air. Any difficulties can therefore be identified and resolved in good time,” Michael Zach responds. “Short-time work during the Corona crisis prevented drastic staff reductions, so we are now well positioned for current traffic and future growth. In addition, employees in Ground & Cargo Handling were cross-qualified and can be flexibly deployed in several areas.”
Finally, what about Sustainability?
“Sustainability is very important at the Vienna site. Austria's largest photovoltaic system, consisting of 55,000 solar panels, is located at Vienna Airport. There are also photovoltaic systems on the roof of the Air Cargo Center and at 6 other locations,” he summarizes. In fact, that photovoltaic system went into trial operation earlier this year, and already produces more than 300,000 kilowatt hours per day on an area of around 24 hectares. On a sunny day, together with seven roof-mounted PV systems (in place since 2016), this is enough to cover the airport's entire electricity consumption. The airport forecasts that it will be able to generate enough over the year to cover a third of its annual electricity consumption. The ceremonial opening of Austria’s largest photovoltaic system, took place in mid-May 2022 with very little international media representation: mostly just German-speaking outlets.
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