by Will Waters
Volga-Dnepr Group and its UK affiliate ask airport to prepare to handle up to 30 cargo flights per week within five years
After yesterday announcing the intention to buy 29 B777 freighters, Volga-Dnepr Group (VDG) and its UK affiliate CargoLogicAir (CLA) today unveiled plans to make Belgium’s Liege Airport into a European hub, from which it will operate up to 30 cargo flights per week within five years.
The parties revealed that they have signed “a Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Cooperation with Liege Airport, with the aim to strengthen their positions in the European market through development of a regional hub and enhancement of freighter capacity”.
The move is thought to be a response to airport constraints in Europe that show signs of potentially limiting the growth of the ambitious and rapidly expanding cargo airline group and its network. Announcements in terms of aircraft and partnerships on the ground are designed to address that growth opportunity and provide a platform for growth, sources close to the airline have indicated.
Last year, VDG subsidiary AirBridgeCargo Airlines was forced to switch some of its Amsterdam Schiphol services to Liege because of airport slot restrictions. ABC continues to operate around seven freighter flights a week in and out of Liege (LGG).
VDG and CLA commented: “Within the next three to five years, the three parties will join their efforts in establishing a regional hub for VDG and CLA freighter operations with the provision of efficient cargo handling for up to 30 cargo flights per week, including for special cargoes which are of high demand among their customers. All the flights will be supported by maintenance facilities to be organized on the airport’s premises.”
The operation of up to 30 cargo flights per week would include the services of ABC, but would also indicate a significant number of flights by CLA, whose European operations currently focus on London Stansted Airport, with services also via Frankfurt Main and Hahn airports. Sources close to the carriers indicated that Moscow would obviously remain the main hub of ABC and Stansted would remain the operating base of CLA, with Liege being a regional hub.
The companies said: “Liege airport, which has been favoured by many cargo carriers recently, will support both companies in opening up new routes and establishing the communication channel with competent government authorities for smooth operations both with other comingled airports of Europe, as well as worldwide. On top of this, Liege Airport will provide VDG and CLA with sufficient ground handling, warehousing and office areas for smooth coordination and operation of freighter flights.”
David Kerr, CEO of CargoLogicAir said: “The development of a European hub in Liege will support our existing network, boost our cargo services, covering major catchment areas of Europe for the convenience of our customers. We will be able to guarantee high-end services based on reliable partnership with Liege airport, which is not only one of the most cargo-friendly airports, but also shows significant steps of development in air cargo handling – the area of paramount importance for carriers which aim for quality, speed, and safety.”
Alexey Isaykin, president of Volga-Dnepr Group, commented: “I wish to thank Liege Airport for their enthusiasm and teamwork. This has helped us to reach this agreement so quickly, and will create new opportunities for our customers worldwide by guaranteeing more smooth, seamless, and efficient delivery options.”
Luc Partoune, CEO of Liege Airport said the agreement meant the airport would accelerate and extend its existing cargo expansion plans and would additional capacity for 300,000 tonnes of annual cargo.
“Liege Airport is looking forward to growing the cooperation with all members of the Volga-Dnepr Group and its strategic partner,” he said. “We believe that, each on our level, both Liege Airport and VD Group are investing in cargo, and are focused on cargo and logistics 100%.
“From LGG point of view, the AirBridgeCargo hub adds 23,000sqm of first-line warehouse, 4,000sqm offices, and an additional capacity of approximately 300,000 tonnes.”
He said this meant that the development of the airport would outpace its current investment plan, noting: “Being the ‘Flexport’, and with investments fully focused on addition cargo capacity, we are happy to adapt to the demands.
“The #freightersfirst policy of Liege Airport and the already impressive operation, enforced by the announcement of additional freighter capacity, support each other. VD Group and Liege Airport share the cargo DNA and we are looking forward to a successful future.”
The parties said the joint work would be organized through “working project groups to strengthen communication and negotiation, discuss and finalize the cooperation details, work out specific programmes, and carry out the regular review to drive implementation of relevant measures”.
As reported yesterday in Lloyd’s Loading List, Volga-Dnepr Group and its UK affiliate CargoLogicHolding (CLH) yesterday unveiled a sweeping package of freighter agreements with US aircraft manufacturer Boeing that includes a letter of intent for CLH to acquire 29 Boeing 777 freighters, valued at US$9.8 billion at current list prices.
The deals, announced at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow, include confirmation of an order for five Boeing 747-8 Freighters, the purchase of a “crew pairing solution”, and an agreement to work together on future freighter projects.
Volga-Dnepr noted: “While the Volga-Dnepr Group and its partners have largely built their business on very large four-engine freighters, it now plans to expand its future fleet options with a commitment for the twin-engine 777 freighter. CargoLogicHolding intends to order 29 Boeing 777 freighters; the airplane’s unmatched range and significant cargo capacity promises to open up significant network and growth opportunities.