No one can operate freighters profitably any more, right?
Moscow-based AirBridgeCargo (ABC) operates nothing but freighters, and is doing quite well. Not only did the carrier report a record first half, but it is planning a major fleet upgrade. We’ll get to the first-half details below, but first, the fleet news…
AirBridge is about to take delivery of a 747-400ERF (35170, on lease from Amentum). This is one of the ex-Jade Cargo International freighters that has been stored since Jade grounded its fleet two and one half years ago. This delivery will not give ABC any additional capacity, but rather will be used to replace a -400ERFs that AirBridge is returning off lease to Air France this week. However, it is worth noting that the ex-Jade freighter is relatively young in terms of cycles, having actually been operated for only a few years before being parked.
Bigger news, however, is that in October, AirBridge will take delivery of another 747-8F, bringing its total of that type to six, and marking the first stage of a new fleet plan. ABC Executive President Denis Ilin said that the carrier was “planning to move towards becoming an all Boeing 747-8F type operator.” Further, he said that following the 747-8F delivery in October, ABC was planning on “eventually replacing our current 747-400 aircraft with new -8s.”
Exactly which 747-8F ABC will take in October is not yet known, but Cargo Facts believes it may be unit 60117, a freighter built this year for a customer Boeing expected to have signed a firm order some time ago. That order has not materialized (although Cargo Facts believes negotiations are ongoing), and the freighter is now parked at Boeing’s Everett facility, awaiting flight testing.
Regarding its performance in the first half of 2014, AirBridge reported cargo volume up 16% to a record 188,000 tonnes. The highest growth was generated on routes from Asia and North America to Russia, with 29% and 23% growth respectively. The carrier said cargo traffic (in tonne kilometers) was up 19%, but did not provide details.
During the half, ABC added service to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Leipzig (LEJ), Munich (MUC), and Malmo (MMX), and increased frequencies to Chicago with a new direct Frankfurt (FRA)-Chicago (ORD) service. Looking ahead, Executive President Denis Ilin said the carrier had “laid down ambitious plans for the second half of 2014, which will include launching of more new routes and increasing our frequencies on a number of existing routes, as well as growing our fleet. We will surely keep focus on our home market, not only by developing additional import business to Russia but also by launching domestic routes using the Boeing 737 freighter fleet of Atran Airlines, another part of Volga-Dnepr Group. We are on track for good 2014 and projecting our total tonnage for the year to exceed 400,000 tons of cargo.”