Moscow-based AirBridgeCargo (ABC), the scheduled service subsidiary of the Volga-Dnepr Group, reported volume up 9% in the first quarter to a record 86,500 tonnes. Cargo traffic for the period was up 13%. The carrier did not provide any information about revenue or profitability, but did say the volume growth “reflects market improvements in Russia, Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific as well as the success of its own sales activities.”
AirBridge currently operates a twelve-unit fleet made up of five 747-8Fs, four 747-400ERFs, and three 747-400Fs, but at the carrier’s 10th anniversary celebration in Frankfurt last week, Executive President Denis Ilin said AirBridge was in talks with Boeing about moving to an all-747-8F fleet. Mr. Ilin did not provide any hints about when this might happen, but he made it clear that the reduction in main-deck capacity being undertaken by many other carriers played to ABC’s strength. That strength – a network that connects Asia, Europe and the US, via Russia, and often via the same aircraft – requires big long-haul freighters, but Wolfgang Meier, VP Marketing & Development at parent Volga-Dnepr Group, said that by using Moscow as its main hub ABC could balance weaknesses elsewhere in its network with cargo for the domestic Russian market.
Other interesting comments by the AirBridge/Volga-Dnepr team at the Frankfurt celebration include:
- Volga-Dnepr admitted that its acquisition of a 49% stake in Air Cargo Germany was an expensive mistake
- Acquisition of a 35% stake in Cargolux was considered, but rejected not because of the cost (which was high), but because the minority stake would not have given Volga-Dnepr sufficient control.
- Robert van de Weg, formerly sales boss at Cargolux, now in the same position at AirBridge, said that while Cargolux had become a mature company, AirBridge was still growing and developing. “I sense a strong entrepreneurial spirit here.”
- Wolfgang Meier said that he expected the strong first quarter to be the start of a strong year, that the 2014 market “will be stronger than the year before. Yields will be as well until the end of the year.”