Update with breaking news: Our guess, and the rumors reported below, turns out to be correct. Following the extraordinary Board meeting in Amsterdam today, Air France-KLM CEO Alexandre de Juniac announced that the carrier would “accelerate the retirement” of many of its freighters, reducing the fleet from fourteen units today, to just five – two 777Fs at Air France, and three 747-400ERFs at KLM. So it’s goodbye to Martinair.
Air France KLM is expected to announce the fate of its freighter fleet today (4 September), following an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors in Amsterdam.
As has been well reported, here at Cargo Facts and elsewhere, Air France-KLM’s cargo division has been flying through red ink for several years. The company’s first response was a vow to drop its focus on volume and market share and to concentrate on accepting only profitable business. While that move did lead to a reduction in cargo traffic, it did not lead to the expected increase in yield.
After seeing losses continue to mount in its cargo operation, AF-KLM made the decision two years ago to retire some of its freighters. But even with this plan in place through 2013, the carrier suffered an operating loss of €202 million on its cargo operation for the year – almost as great as the €222 million loss in 2012.
Beginning early this year, rumors began circulating that Air France-KLM was seriously considering exiting the main-deck freight business altogether, with a decision to be made by the end of the third quarter. Now, with decision day scheduled for tomorrow, French business journal la Tribune quotes sources close to the matter as saying the company’s freighter fleet will be drastically reduced, with six MD-11Fs to be retired, along with some 747-400ERFs, all from the fleet of subsidiary all-cargo carrier Martinair.
This would leave two 777Fs with Air France, and perhaps two or three 747-400ERFs at KLM, with the company henceforth relying on belly capacity in its passenger fleet plus the limited main-deck capacity available in KLM’s seventeen 747-400 combis.
Given that this is a press report quoting “reliable sources”, we point out that today’s announcement, expected at a press conference in Amsterdam at 18:30, could be quite different. But we would be surprised if the announcement did not include at least some freighter retirements.
We will update this post as we learn more, so check back in later today.