Cargoitalia in transition
While retaining a reduced scheduled service portfolio, Cargoiltalia has created a new ACMI and charter division to find additional work for the carrier’s fleet of three MD11-Fs. According to newly promoted charter and ACMI manager, Giacomo Sciuto, this product, dubbed Ondemand, is expected to account for around 30 percent of Cargoitalia’s flying time.
"The MD-11 freighter is in a league of its own in proving an ideal aircraft for scheduled airlines needing short-term or periodic additional capacity," Sciuto said. "But it does not require the same constant high levels of demand as newer and larger equipment, such as the B777F and B747F."
Ondemand has been launched on the back of two key charter contracts for the Italian airline. It has recently renewed a contract with Africa West, the Togo-based cargo carrier, which operates internal cargo flights across West Africa. Cargoitalia is required to operate twice-weekly flights from Liege to feed the Africa West network from Europe.
More significantly, Cargoitalia has also signed a "long-term" contract with Lufthansa Cargo to provide additional lift on the North Atlantic. Cargoitalia detailed this as a call for a twice-weekly operation between Frankfurt and New York and Chicago.
Lufthansa Cargo confirms that it has signed a 340 block-hour agreement with Cargoitalia. "The original intention was that Cargoitalia would operate twice weekly on this route from October to December to help us through this peak period," a Lufthansa Cargo spokesman said.
"This contract has since been revised, due to weak demand, and Cargoitalia will now operate the 340 block hours from October to February next year, which means they will only be required to operate a weekly flight on our behalf." Either way, he said, "This is not what Lufthansa Cargo would describe as a long-term contract."
Cargoitalia is taking on charter work on behalf of one of its toughest European rivals and is also flying the same route it operates with its it own twice-weekly schedule service from Milan to New York and Chicago. The only other scheduled route flown by the airline now is a twice-weekly service to Dubai and Hong Kong. A new service launched with great fanfare to Atlanta at the start of the year has since been suspended, as has service to Shanghai.
Managing Director Giacomo Manzon admitted the airline has gone through a difficult year. "Our routes have been badly impacted by falling demand, overcapacity and rising fuel costs, resulting in our need to temporarily reduce frequency and suspend some services," he said.
Ondemand, he added, is being used as a tool to soak up the airline's spare capacity until the market conditions are right to restart its scheduled service expansion program.
"Right now," Manzon said, "we are remodeling Cargoitalia as a more flexible operation that can cater for every type of freighter requirement."