ABC to develop more trans-Pacific routings
AirBridgeCargo Airlines’ launch of a Chicago flight at the end of April made the Volga-Dnepr Group subsidiary the first all-cargo carrier to offer regular services between Russia and the U.S.
The thrice-weekly service operates on a trans-Atlantic routing via Amsterdam, but Tatyana Arslanova, executive president of ABC, told a press conference at the Air Cargo Europe exhibition in Munich that the carrier would develop the concept further, increasing frequency and operating trans-Pacific for the first time following delivery of two B747-8 aircraft later this year. “We will close the gap and connect China to the U.S.,” Arslanova revealed.
Currently, ABC supplements inbound traffic from Chicago by cross-loading in Amsterdam for onward destinations in central Asia and China. The flight continues to ABC’s Moscow hub, from where it can serve the domestic Russian market.
Four B747-400ERFs joined the ABC fleet last year, allowing Paris, Malmö, Zhengzhou and Seoul to be added to the list of destinations, together with Yekaterinburg in Russia. Despite this rapid capacity growth, load factor had reached 73 percent, Arslanova said. The carrier increased its volume by 61 percent to 240,000 tonnes, and revenue was 82 percent higher.
Volga-Dnepr Group now operates out of two hubs in Moscow after opening a hub at Domodedovo airport in mid-2010. But a new cargo complex is also being built at Sheremetyevo. ABC, now the biggest international cargo carrier there, is one of four partners in this project.
Although growth was slower in the larger charter division, Volga-Dnepr Group nevertheless recorded a 27 percent revenue increase to $1.59 billion in 2010. Ten AN-124s
and three IL-76s provide charter capacity, together with increasing use of ABC’s aircraft in what the group calls its “cargo supermarket” concept.
Dennis Gliznoutsa, group commercial director, charters, said two more IL-76s would supplement the charter fleet soon. Volga-Dnepr is sub-chartering smaller AN-12s, AN-24s and AN-74s to serve the Russian market, but Gliznoutsa said that if this sector developed well, the group could take on its own capacity and even introduce scheduled domestic services.
With the international heavy freight market set to increase at 10 to 12 percent a year, Volga-Dnepr is investing $400 million over the next six years to upgrade its workhorse AN-124-100s. New avionics and engines will extend the life of the current fleet and payload will increase from 120 to 150 tonnes.
For the longer term, production of the AN-124 is to resume in the form of an all-new model, the -300, after Volga-Dnepr ordered 20 of the aircraft.