As FedEx nears the final phase of integrating TNT Express, which it acquired in 2016, the company proposed consolidating what it sees as “two duplicate air networks” operating out of Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Liege (LGG). Liege Airport, formerly the nexus of TNT’s network, would become a secondary hub, while CDG would take over as FedEx Europe’s main gateway.
FedEx expects redundancies across Europe, with impacted positions numbering 5,500 to 6,200 over the next eighteen months, according to a statement from FedEx. The cuts could generate annual savings of $350 million per year by 2024, according to a regulatory filing.
Although flight schedule changes are a given, it is not immediately clear how the FedEx intra-Europe fleet and network would be affected following the integration. “We anticipate no immediate impact on our European air fleet,” said a spokesperson for FedEx Express.
In 2016, following the acquisition, ASL Aviation Holdings acquired two airlines previously owned by TNT Express: TNT Airways and Pan Air. These airlines became ASL Airlines Belgium and ASL Airlines Spain, the latter of which no longer operates as an independent airline.
ASL continued to operate on FedEx’s behalf as part of a multi-year service agreement, along with other ACMI operators including Bluebird Cargo, Cygnus Air, Swift Air and West Atlantic, but gradually reduced its widebody fleet in ACMI service for FedEx. Pre-merger, TNT Airways operated three 777Fs and two 747-400ERFs, which in addition to a narrowbody fleet, enabled both intra-Europe and long-haul flights.
At present, ASL Airlines Belgium operates the bulk of FedEx’s European flights connecting to Liege, while a mix of ACMI operators handle other flights within the network.
FedEx said the scope of the redundancies and operational changes would affect multiple countries but said Liege would be particularly affected because of the hub reduction. More than a third of FedEx’s staff based at Liege — some 671 out of 1,700 positions — could be affected, according to the Brussels Times. These figures are still open to further negotiation. FedEx employees at Liege immediately called for a strike that lasted 48 hours. Regular intra-Europe flights resumed again on Thursday evening.
Although FedEx’s departure from Liege would have been devastating for the airport ten years ago, the airport has made great strides in attracting new business. Alibaba, Challenge Airlines, Volga-Dnepr Group and Qatar Airways have increased flights to the airport in recent years. While TNT Express once represented 60% of Liege airport’s cargo throughput, that figure is closer to 30% following diversification, according to the airport.