In the Netherlands, it appears that the time for talking has ended, as Air France-KLM has taken the axe to subsidiary carrier Martinair. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Taiwan-based EVA Air is looking to the future, with plans to place an order for five 777Fs.
The disappearance of Air France, KLM, and Martinair as major players in the main-deck freight business has been underway for some time now — effectively since the Air France/KLM merger. Cargo Facts has reported extensively on this, but while the Air France and KLM freighter fleets have been cut drastically, Martinair has continued to operate six MD-11Fs of its own, as well as several of the KLM 747-400Fs. Until now.
At a press conference yesterday, AF-KLM announced massive job cuts at Martinair, saying that 330 employees, including 110 of the carrier’s 140 pilots, would be let go. The European media have widely quoted Marcel de Nooijer, Managing Director of Martinair and EVP of KLM Cargo, as saying “We deeply regret the social consequences, but these steps are unavoidable if the cargo business is to have a durable future.”
On the fleet side, all six of Martinair’s MD-11Fs will be retired, leaving Air France-KLM with two 777Fs based in Paris (operated by Air France) and three 747-400ERFs based in Amsterdam ( operated by the remaining Martinair pilots). The company says it will also keep fifteen 747-400 combis in the KLM fleet, but given the age of these airplanes — all but a few are over 20 years old — we have to wonder how long they will stay in service.
Regarding timing, Air France-KLM said the fleet reduction would be complete by mid-2016, but some reports indicate the staff cuts will become effective by June of this year, so we would not be surprised if the MD-11Fs were retired much sooner than mid-2016. In fact, given that AF-KLM made the point that Martinair has lost €8 million per freighter per year for the past three years, we would be surprised if the MD-11Fs weren’t retired quickly.
But the news is not all doom and gloom. Unlike Air France-KLM, Taiwan-based EVA Air has reported strong growth in both cargo traffic and cargo revenue this year, and while the carrier plans to reduce the number of freighters in its fleet, it has also made the decision to re-fleet with new production 777Fs. EVA Chairman Chang Kuo Wei was recently quoted in China Times as saying that the first phase of a massive fleet renewal will involve replacing its eight 747-400 freighters (three production units and five BDSF conversions) with five new 777Fs. There has been no announcement about the timing of the order, but a recent report in ch-aviation implies that it will be sooner, rather than later.
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