One favorite subject of conversation at air freight industry get-togethers these days is the demise of the all-cargo long-haul airline. Whenever another all-cargo carrier goes out of business (Air Cargo Germany is the latest) someone is sure to say: “When even the big players like Cargolux, NCA, and AirBridge are losing money, there’s no hope for the little guys.” But that has not deterred two recent start-ups – one in Europe and one in the US.
In the US, Western Global Airlines has applied to the DOT for authority to operate in both domestic and international service, while in Europe, Aerospace One (registered in Greece) claims to have already begun operations from a base in Châteauroux (France). The two share some interesting similarities: both have been launched by industry veterans who already run other all-cargo airlines, both plan to operate in the charter and ACMI markets, rather than in scheduled service, and both plan to start operations with a single freighter. We start with Western Global…
If the name “_____ Global Airlines” seems familiar, you are on the right track. Western Global Airlines is the latest venture of Jim Neff, whose résumé stretches back to the Flying Tigers, and includes founding and running Southern Air. However, for the last two years he has been Chairman of Helsinki-based Nordic Global Airlines (in which he and his wife, through a trust, own a 29% stake). He is also founder (in 2010) and CEO of Neff Air LLC – for more about Neff Air, read on. (Photo at right is a Nordic Global MD-11F, by Alex Polezhaev.)
In its application to the DOT, Western Global said it intended to launch operations this September with a single MD-11F, with the fleet increasing to four MD-11Fs “during the first year of operation.” Regarding the source of the four freighters, Western Global said: “These aircraft are currently owned by four special-purpose limited liability companies that are owned entirely by James and Carmit Neff, and will be leased to Western Global by Neff Air, which manages the aircraft, at very favorable lease rates.” The application does not specify the particular aircraft, but Cargo Facts believes they are likely 48512 and 48513 (both currently operated by Nordic Global), 48435 (ex-World Airways, formerly owned by CIT Leasing), and 48543 (ex-China Cargo, formerly owned by BBAM). If these are in fact the four freighters to be operated by Western Global, then it means a significant decrease in the Nordic Global fleet, from four MD-11Fs to two.
The main focus of Western Global appears to be ACMI operation for other carriers, but the application also specifies charter operation. Given that the company appears to be avoiding scheduled service, it may well succeed – particularly if it has some contracts already lined up. Another factor that may contribute to success is that Western Global will share some expenses with Nordic Global. In its application, the company says: “The shared cost elements are expected to include common contracted flight following/dispatch center, a common engine overhaul and maintenance center, and a common contracted crew supply company. These cooperative relations will help minimize costs to both companies.”
Turning to Europe, Aerospace One appears to have already acquired its first aircraft – a 747-200 Convertible (23652, ex-Rayyan Air) – and says it conducted its maiden flight in April, from Sharjah to Jakarta. But while the -200 Combi is registered to Aerospace One, it appears now to be parked in Jakarta (CGK) and it is not clear when it will return to operation.
Aerospace One was founded by Jaideep Mirchandani, who also has several other cargo-related operations. One of these is Armenian-registered but Sharjah-based all-cargo operator Veteran Avia, which operates three 747-200Fs (two on an ACMI basis for Saudia) as well as three Il-76TDs. His other businesses include charter broker Chartersphere, and asset manager and helicopter charter operator Sky One FZE, among others.
The carrier says that it intends to add 747-400Fs to its fleet, but so far has not specified where these freighters would come from. As to Aerospace One’s plan of operation, Mr. Mirchandani has been widely quoted as saying: “We aim to provide cargo bridges between continents. We will serve a particular niche in this market.” He indicated that the initial “bridge” would be between Asia and South America, via Europe, but beyond that, very little is known. Our European editor Alex Lennane has some further background on Mr. Mirchandani’s operations on her Loadstar website here.