The partners have set themselves major targets. This is evidenced by the press release issued today, officially announcing the launch of their strategic partnership. In it, one superlative follows the other. Provided, all plans are realized in the coming years, Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo and CGA CGM Air Cargo might not be the largest cargo airline by the end of this decade, but one of the leaders of the pack. It also will be among the most environmentally conscious carriers since sustainability stands very high on the partners’ agenda, both emphasize in their joint statement.
Kudos! Mission finally completed. But it was a birth with obstacles. Both players had initially announced their plans to start a strategic partnership on 18MAY22. What followed was a managerial shakeup and strange operational decisions shown by CMA CGM’s step to lease out four of its six freighters to other carriers. However, this rather bumpy road of the first nine months should now be over, following the inking of the long-term strategic partnership.
This is emphasized by Air France-KLM Group EVP Cargo and Cooperation Lead, Adriaan Den Heijer: “The operational implementation of our strategic long-term air cargo partnership with CMA CGM Air Cargo will accelerate the expansion of our cargo business, a strategic activity for the Air France-KLM Group, by opening up a wide range of new opportunities, in terms of offerings, destinations, and solutions to our customers. With our experienced and dedicated teams and a powerful distribution platform, we look forward to further transforming the future through this partnership.”
Main framework conditions:
The agreement, which has received all necessary approvals from the relevant authorities, is valid for a period of ten years, with an option to extend. During this timeframe, Air France-KLM-Martinair and CMA CGM Air Cargo will combine their complementary cargo networks, full freighter capacity and dedicated services to offer the market a compelling proposition in terms of capacity, know-how, and greenhouse gas saving solutions. However, and this is also stressed by the partners: their aircraft could be independently deployed on destinations outside the scope of their cooperation.
By joining forces, the market will benefit from enhanced customer support thanks to a global network of agencies collaborating with the combined freight carrier, the partners emphasize. Clients will have direct access to a dedicated online platform (“myCargo”) and digital services for easy online bookings, which is available 24/7/365. Also, customers can book and combine flights operated by Air France-KLM-Martinair or CMA CGM Air Cargo via the above-named digital tool. In addition to this, a specialized service desk will be set up, addressing specific requirements, including a dedicated BIG desk for dealing with the specifics of large shipments.
Unclear capacity management
As to the capacity marketing, the announcement is rather vague, enabling different interpretations. “Air France-KLM and CMA CGM will jointly operate the full-freighter aircraft capacity of their respective airlines,” is stated in the press release. But what does ‘jointly’ mean here? The question is: who sits in the driver’s seat when it comes to the capacity and commercial management of the 12 freighter aircraft belonging to the partners’ fleets, with up to nine of them based at Paris CDG Airport and three in AMS. In addition to the main deck capacity, the commercial partnership also covers Air France-KLM’s lower deck capacity of their combined passenger fleets, encompassing 160+ aircraft.
Guillaume Lathelize, CEO of CMA CGM Air Cargo, said: “CMA CGM Air Cargo is France’s leading full-freighter airline, and operates 6 aircraft. The company has demonstrated its flexibility and agility with scheduled services and charter solutions for key logistics players. Our partnership will combine the best of both worlds: flexibility, agility, and world class expertise for regular and dedicated services.”
Sustainability stands high on the agenda
Both groups emphasize that they aim to be at the forefront of sustainable aviation by reducing their environmental footprint through permanent fleet renewal, with firm orders for next-generation aircraft (notably the Airbus A350F), and through the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). In DEC21, Air France-KLM launched the world’s first SAF program for the air cargo industry, effectively enabling freight forwarders and shippers to participate in reducing CO₂ emissions in the aviation sector.
In addition to this, the CMA CGM Group has decided to create a Fund for Energies. Backed by a five-year, USD 1.5 billion budget and a dedicated team, it aims to accelerate the energy transition in order to achieve Net Zero Carbon by 2050. The Fund invests in supporting the industrial production of new fuels, as well as low-emission mobility solutions across the Group’s business base.
Final promise from Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo and CMA CGM Air Cargo: “(we) will develop game-changing solutions through the continued optimization of resources and processes to levels exceeding industry standards and press on with their efforts in the field of smart digitalization intended to benefit the industry as a whole.” Nothing much to add to this!
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