Cargo volumes at European airports have lagged in recent months. Some attribute such declines to economic problems in the eurozone; others point to possible retaliation due to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Either way, heading up a European airport’s cargo operations in the current environment is no small task. But it’s a task logistics professional Bernhard Hoffmann knows all too well. Hoffmann, who recently took over as head of airfreight business development at Germany’s Leipzig/Halle Airport, discussed with Air Cargo World how he plans to keep the airport’s cargo operations above the fray.
1. How have carriers reacted to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme? Do you expect it to define cargo volumes into Europe this year?
In principle, all the system partners agree that attempts must be made to prevent the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from distorting competition at an international level — and this must be sustainable around the globe. That is our position, too, and we have clearly expressed this in our sector associations. Any isolated solution is the wrong approach and unilaterally penalizes the entire European sector, and this will clearly have a negative effect on our competitiveness.
2. How have problems in the eurozone affected Leipzig/Halle Airport’s freight traffic in recent months?
In terms of cargo volumes, all signs point to further growth at Leipzig/Halle. The airport is Germany’s largest express freight transshipment center — thanks to the involvement of DHL, which operates its European hub here — and ongoing growth has been registered here for seven years now. Freight volumes also continued to rise in the first quarter of 2012, and, at 202,000 tonnes, the increase amounts to a significant 14 percent compared to the same period of 2011. Leipzig/Halle Airport is particularly benefiting from the constant increase in express shipments. Freight volumes in the general-cargo sector are also developing positively.
3. How will the Frankfurt Airport night-flight ban impact cargo volumes at Leipzig/Halle Airport?
The night-flight ban opens up additional opportunities for Leipzig/Halle Airport, which is already Germany’s second-largest airfreight hub. Thanks to its legally settled, unlimited, 24/7 operating permit for freight traffic, the airport provides reliability, an environment where it is easy to plan ahead, and the latest infrastructure in Europe. It is also directly linked to the trans-European motorway and railway networks. Any destination within Europe can be reached by truck within 24 or 48 hours.
We also have attractive development space for companies operating in sectors associated with airfreight at or near the airport. Leipzig/Halle Airport is, therefore, the logical alternative for international logistics service providers after the ban on night flights at Frankfurt Airport. We are also working hard on the AirCargoExpress, a high-speed cargo train, which is designed to shuttle freight shipped on passenger flights between the airports at Frankfurt and Leipzig/Halle in the future. The infrastructure is already available; we just need the appropriate cargo volumes.
4. Which regions are seeing the highest growth in terms of freight volumes?
Eastern Europe and Asia are the top growth markets for cargo. Leipzig/Halle Airport provides ideal conditions for tapping into this development potential due to its central location in Europe. Thanks to the transfer of production to Central and Eastern Europe, we are benefiting from our proximity to these markets. It is also true that flights from Asia reach Leipzig/ Halle Airport about one hour earlier than other hubs in Central and Western Europe.
5. What’s the No. 1 goal you would like to accomplish in your role as head of airfreight business development at Leipzig/Halle Airport?
In light of the current capacity bottlenecks at Western European airports, it is our goal to press ahead with the positive development of the airport and steer additional flows of goods to and from Europe through Leipzig/Halle, which will attract new airlines. Our major focus is on textiles, pharmaceutical products, perishables and goods associated with the automobile sector. But we are also providing services for niche markets like large animal transportation and outsize cargo, along with focusing on a greater intensification of charter traffic. The airport also has areas, some of them with access to the apron, which we want to develop together with airfreight logistics companies or industries linked to airfreight.