The acquisition of a large chunk of Air Cargo Germany effectively provides AirBridgeCargo Airlines with vital fifth-freedom rights out of the heart of Europe. But what is the next move for the Russians?
Alexey Isaikin, the ebullient president of Volga-Dnepr Group, has not been trumpeting his latest triumph. Instead, the acquisition of a 49-percent stake in Air Cargo Germany was achieved, almost by stealth, through its Netherlands subsidiary, Volga-Dnepr Logistics. All of this was done very properly, so as not to up upset the German antitrust authorities who have duly given approval to the deal.
If Isaikin isn’t talking, then he must at least be quietly smiling to himself. At the end of February, ABC, Volga-Dnepr’s scheduled cargo subsidiary, applied for and was refused fifth-freedom rights out of Germany. The Russian carrier had wanted to launch flights from Frankfurt to Chicago. That would now seemingly be possible with its buy-in of the Frankfurt-Hahn based outfit, which already has U.S. traffic rights, with the intended start of service to New York and Chicago penciled into its business plan.
But just how will this new, joint venture play out to the Isaikin game-plan? According to one analyst, it will be very simple and straightforward. “AirBridgeCargo will retain its focus on the Europe-Asia market, and in that respect will retain its Frankfurt operation, where it is the dominant player between Germany and China, even ahead of Lufthansa Cargo,” he said.
The opportunity now exists, he said, for ABC to use Air Cargo Germany as the vehicle to launch services to the U.S. and also as the carrier to open the markets to Africa and South America. “The likelihood is that Isaikin will transfer some of his excess B747-400F capacity to the German carrier, particularly as ABC is starting to take delivery of new B747-8F aircraft.
“AirbridgeCargo badly wanted the Chicago route out of Frankfurt and up to now has had to make-do with fifth-freedom flights from Amsterdam,” he added. “It may well now pull that service and also end its other Dutch operation to Maastricht.”