KLM Cargo 744ERF at Hong Kong

KLM Cargo 747-400ERF Christian Junker

Wings flexing as it passes the tower at Hong Kong International Airport, KLM Cargo is Amsterdam bound on this gray day at Chek Lap Kok. PH-CKC (msn: 33696) is one of KLM Cargo’s four 747-400ERFs, though these aircraft are actually operated by Martinair, which is also part of the Air France-KLM group. Air France and KLM merged in 2005, adding Martinair in 2008 when AF-KLM became Martinair’s sole shareholder. Since that time the three formerly separate cargo operations have been gradually combined, and now offer a unified product. With belly and combi capacity factored in, the combined group offers more than 350 destinations in 170 countries.

Despite this expansive service, AF-KLM Cargo has struggled over the past few years, with a €220M loss in 2012, more than double the loss of 2011. Interestingly, these losses come despite the fact that AF-KLM began shrinking its combined fleet freighter fleet in 2009, saying at the time that it intended to pursue yield over market share. Air France sold off two 747-400ERFs in 2009, four 747-400BCFs in 2010, and sold three of the five 777-200Fs it had ordered to FedEx on delivery. Martinair’s 747-400BCF fleet, all leased, shrank from four to just one in this period. Most recently, Martinair parked an MD-11CF in February, while KLM signed an agreement to lease one of its 747-400ERFs to Etihad.

The total current freighter fleet of “Air France-KLM Cargo” is comprised of six different aircraft types in four liveries. Martinair Cargo operates six MD-11Fs/CFs and one 747-400BCF (operated currently in jv with Kenya Airways Cargo in a unique “Safari Connection” livery), while KLM Cargo uses the four 747-400ERFs.

KLM also operates 17 747-400M combis, most of which see regular freight duties. Though Martinair operates the -400ERFs, The combi aircraft are operated as KLM aircraft. KLM’s combi operation is the largest of its kind and the carrier is the largest operator of the 747-400M. The addition of the 777-300ER, with its ample belly capacity, is likely to impact the aging combi fleet in the next few years. The 777-300ER is already used between Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

The Air France cargo fleet, which operates in concert with KLM and Martinair Cargo, is comprised of a trio of 747-400 Freighters and two 777-200 Freighters. Air France also has a single 747-400 combi (inherited from the 1992 acquisition of UTA), but that aircraft is operated exclusively as a passenger aircraft.
We’ll be hearing more about AF-KLM’s operations, and specifically its Asia destinations and traffic, at the upcoming Cargo Facts Asia conference next week, where Robert Kunen, Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo’s director of Hong Kong & Southern China will be speaking. We hope to see you there.

This photo comes courtesy of contributor Christian Junker, a founding member of the Association of Hong Kong Aviation Photographers (ahkgap.net). The Association also highlights notable aircraft that visit the airport.

© Photographer: Christian Junker. This photo may not be used without the express permission of Christian Junker. To see more of Christian’s excellent aviation photos, click here.

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