Russia-based AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC), the scheduled-service subsidiary of Volga-Dnepr Group, reported total tonnage up 13% in 2017 to “more than 700,000 tonnes.” This is well down from the more-than-20% growth the carrier has reported in the last three years, but stronger than the industry average. In terms of cargo traffic (in freight tonne kilometers), AirBridge did not provide a total, but said traffic was up 10% – again down from what it has reported in recent years, but above the industry average.
Of course, volume growth at the rate AirBridge was reporting in previous years could not continue indefinitely. At a 20% compound annual growth rate, ABC’s cargo volume would double every five years, and soon AirBridge would be carrying every kilo of air freight in the world. Obviously, at some point, the growth had to level out, so 2017’s growth rate of “only 13%” should come as no surprise.
Discussing the year, AirBridge pointed to three factors that drove growth:
- Fleet expansion – more capacity allowed AirBridge to carry more cargo. (Although, as we have often said, simply adding capacity does not guarantee more volume.)
- Focus on specialty cargo – AirBridgeCargo General Director Sergey Lazarev said: “In 2017 we concentrated our efforts on the development of special cargo transportation, fine-tuning our internal procedures and processes, aligning our organization structure and going on the path of digitalization, steps which boosted our volumes of special commodities, with temperature pharma heading the list (+150%), followed by off-size & heavy (+33%), and e-commerce (+26%).”
- Expanded network – adding more destinations to its network gave AirBridge access to new markets. Athough, again, simply adding a destination does not guarantee more volume.
AirBridge currently operates eleven 747-8Fs, five 747-400ERFs, and two 747-400Fs. Of the twenty 747-8F AirBridge parent Volga-Dnepr Group committed to in 2015, Cargo Facts believes the company has taken delivery of seven, of which six have entered the AirBridgeCargo fleet, while one went to sister carrier CargoLogicAir (registered in the UK, but controlled by Volga-Dnepr boss Alexey Isaikin).
How many of the remaining thirteen 747-8Fs in the commitment will Volga-Dnepr take? We don’t know, but as long as demand keeps growing, we expect AirBridge (and CargoLogicAir) will continue to add freighters.