The world's largest ocean freight container carrier, Geneva-Switzerland-based MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company SA, aims to enter the air freight market. The company announced to launch
a new MSC Air Cargo business division. Its inaugural flight will take to the air in early 2023, once the first MSC-branded freighter aircraft B777-200F has been delivered.
MSC’s fleet will be operated by lessor Atlas Air, a subsidiary of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. Each B777-200F can accommodate roughly 110 tons of cargo per takeoff, resulting in a total airlift capacity of roughly 440 tons which MSC can offer its customers once the fleet has grown to the announced four units.
Air services are driven by customer demand
"This is our first step into this (air freight) market, and we plan to continue exploring various avenues to develop air cargo in a way that complements our core business of container shipping," stated MSC chief executive officer, Soren Toft, while announcing his company's intention. MSC Air Cargo is a response to customer demand and a complementary service offer to its maritime activities, the world’s largest container shipping line emphsizes in its announcement.
When one door closes, another opens
The advance does not come as a surprise. For months, MSC has had its eye on the air freight business. The shipping company, and partner Lufthansa, had intended to take over the majority stakes in Italian airline ITA. However, MSC and Lufthansa had to abandon these plans after the Italian Ministry of Finance selected U.S. capital investor Certares as its preferred bidder for the state-owned ITA in a surprising decision. Certares is backed by Delta Airlines and Air France-KLM. Provided the takeover plans are consented by the Italian government, AF-KLM will jointly manage ITA's operational passenger and cargo business.
CMA CGM, Maersk, MSC – who comes next?
Faced with the fact that its ITA plans have dissolved, MSC is relying on itself to set up and establish an air freight business. Responsible for setting hurdles aside and getting the newcomer in the air, will be Jannie Davel, a former executive at Delta Cargo, Emirates SkyCargo, and DHL. Mr. Davel will be responsible for barrier removal and getting the newcomer in the air. This includes forming a team to identify routes, implement booking platforms, get to terms with regulators, carve out a marketing strategy and get the ball rolling fast to pave the way for regular cargo flights.
MSC’s air cargo plans are in line with similar initiatives launched by its competitors CMA CGM and Maersk, who decided earlier to add air services to their service portfolios. So far, they have not regretted their move.
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