Qatari stake would open doors for Cargolux
Cargolux does not see foresee major route changes if Qatar Airways acquires a 33 percent stake in the carrier in the next few weeks.
There has been speculation that the Luxembourg-based all-cargo carrier would have to re-engineer its network when the deal goes through, given Qatar’s massive investment in both freighters and large, cargo-friendly passenger aircraft.
Robert Van de Weg, senior vice president, sales and marketing, for Cargolux, would not comment on progess in negotiations. But in an interview at Air Cargo Europe, he said: “There are opportunities for us, if it happens. We already call at Doha twice a week, and a hub there would give us more options to serve south and southeast Asia.”
Cargolux currently makes a number of commercial stops in the Middle East and central Asia on route to the Far East. “It was our response to the east-west freight imbalances of eight to 10 years ago,” Van de Weg said.
Things have changed, however. “Imports are now outgrowing exports and there are backlogs going into Asia. You would expect rates to Asia to be going up strongly, and unfortunately that has not been the case. But our ex-Europe business is good, and the U.S. and South America are doing OK in recent months, so we have a mixed bag.”
Cargolux pre-sold B747-400s from its fleet over the last two years in expectation of receiving its first B747-8s. The carrier wet-leased capacity to fill the gap when the market began recovering from recession in late 2009. Van de Weg said the extra capacity will likely be released when the -8s finally begin arriving later this year, if the market continues to be soft.
The larger planes would technically benefit the carrier’s longhaul routes into destinations such as Los Angeles and Sao Paulo by allowing fuller loading, but will first be deployed on the thicker Hong Kong and Shanghai routes, Van de Weg said.